GalleyMatch Book Clubs Recommend

GalleyMatch book clubs preview advance reading copies (ARCs, also known as galleys) provided by publishers. Below you’ll find the titles book clubs have recently enjoyed reading and discussing along with highlights of their discussion and selected menus from their meetings.

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Lit Ladies, Melbourne, Florida; Tequila Mockingbird, Massapequa Park, New York; Literary Lounge, Clovis, California; Spines & Wines, Franklin Lakes, New Jersey


BYE, BABY by Carola T. Lovering  (St. Martins Press, 3/24)
A novel about female friendship, a missing baby, and the toxic, secret history between two women.

Thrillers by the Book Club:  “Our book club reads thrillers, and, recently delved into BYE, BABY, an engaging read, perfect for our interests. We were hooked by the first chapter involving the main character and a baby. the discussions within our group were rich and varied. Part of our conversation centered on friendship, particularly the complexities of long-standing relationships from childhood. We explored how friendships evolve, sometimes leading to a natural drift apart, yet a lingering sense of care remains. The book led us to reflect on our experiences with seemingly one-sided friendships and how we've navigated them. Billie's intense fixation on Cassie initially struck us as excessive, but as the story unfolded and revealed her past traumas, we understood her motivations better. Our discussions also touched on how these traumas influenced Billie's determination to sustain her friendship with Cassie, despite the latter's manipulative and self-centered nature.  Members were eager to recommend the book to others, especially those who enjoy themes including complicated friendships, the use of dual perspectives, and timelines."

Literary Lounge: “So thankful for the opportunity to read BYE, BABY We really enjoyed it,  and couldn’t put it down! A perfect match for our book club! We all enjoyed this story of a toxic friendship, the influencer culture, and how it can change people. We appreciated the story's timeline and how it went back and forth between the origin of Cassie and Billie’s friendship to their current status as friends  We discussed how ridiculous people can get with influencers and that whole culture. We recommend to those who enjoy books about toxic friendships.”

Spines & Wines: “The short chapters including the dual points of view and timelines, kept us intrigued as the story unravels their friendship throughout the years. The author perfectly depicts events that pulled their friendship apart and revealed the deepest secrets that bonded Cassie and Billie together. We all liked and hated Billie and Cassie at different points throughout the novel.  The most interesting topics were the scenario questions that the book prompted. For example, the role of social media, materialism, Grant’s view of his wife’s business, and defining a healthy friendship! We wanted more details to unravel juicier minor storylines. Recommended for those who enjoy stories about toxic friendships, alternating timelines, and suspense novels!"

Lit Ladies Read:  "Alternating points of view made this a page-turner. We also loved that social media is a huge part of the story We all enjoyed this easy read that was a thought-provoking look at friendship and motherhood. This book was character-driven, and we had a lengthy discussion about Billie and Cassie. We discussed our initial thoughts of each character and how these thoughts changed as we learned their stories. We agreed that we didn’t like Cassie in the beginning and our dislike of Cassie only grew over time. While with Billie, we grew to like her more as the story progressed. Even though Billie did something terrible, we felt for her and did not want to see her get caught or get in trouble. We appreciated how the ending really wrapped up the story   We recommend to those who enjoy dramas about friendship."                                                                                                        

 


Sisterhood Book Club, Macon, Georgia; Beth El Synagogue Book Club, Omaha Nebraska; Newly Revisioned Bookclub, St. Albans, Vermont;
Key Women Educators, Villages, Florida; Teachers Who Read, Columbus, Ohio

ADAM UNREHEARSED by Don Futterman (Post Hill Press, 11/23)
A coming-of-age comedy set in New York in 1970— a story of friendship, betrayal, life, death, and acting,

Beth El Synagogue: “A Perfect match! We were all impressed by the writing style and content, especially for a debut novel Truly a 5Many of our members grew up in the NYC area and were very family with locations, schools mentioned, and curriculum! We could all relate to the 1970 time frame and recall the events highlighted in the narrative. 

The highlight of our discussion was connecting with the author, Don Futterman, by Zoom. He graciously spoke for a long time about the background and content of the book and answered our questions, reminisced about growing up in 1970's NYC and the freedom children experienced then. We discussed his friends, family, synagogue how he decided to move to Israel, and his thoughts on the current situation. It was a fantastic opportunity to read and meet the author.  Recommended for those who enjoy a coming of age story and learning about Jewish life in NYC 1970s”

Menu: In honor of Adam's Bar Mitzvah, we served a dessert buffet.

Newly Revisioned: “ADAM UNREHEARSED was a great match for our book club, and provided fodder for great discussion. Members felt the issues rang true for the community and enjoyed exploring them alongside the main character. We all loved that Adam became so immersed in the theater, and appreciated the power it had to help him find his own way, make new friends, and explore his confusing world through a piece of literature. The scenes from DAWN were so vividly described that we could feel the scene unfolding before our very eyes. We also agreed that the development of Adam's character was spot-on. We REALLY liked him— such a big heart!" Recommended for those who enjoy books about young adults with a social message.”

Sisterhood: “We delved into Adam's emotional journey, particularly focusing on his feelings of betrayal when his friends ostracized and bullied him, especially after his attempt to steal comic books resulted in getting caught on his first foray into wrongdoing. We also explored social shifts, such as the changing seating plans for his bar mitzvah, and the ebb and flow of friendships, with old ones dissolving and new ones forming. Through trials, Adam emerged with increased self-esteem and eventually reconciled with his friends, despite the initial confusion and hurt caused by their unexpected hostility.”

Teachers Who Read:  “We liked Adam and the 1970s time period. Education was very different at that time and as teachers, we like to compare and contrast!   None of us participated in theater growing up so that was fun to read about, along with the educational aspect. We discussed What schools looked like in the '70s and how different it is from the world without cell phones and technology. We all liked it and had many scenes stayed with us. This book has many discussion points as Adam matures in the coming-of-age story so it's perfect for book club! Recommended for those who enjoy books that lead to much discussion and have a main character you are rooting for!”            

Book Club Girls, Sparta, New Jersey; Literary Lovelies, Yonkers, New York; Blu Stocking Lit Society, West Allis Wisconsin
ONLY THE BEAUTIFUL by Susan Meissner (Berkley Pub, 2023)

A novel about a young mother’s fight to keep her daughter and the terrible injustice that tears them apart.

Blu Stockings Lit Society: “ONLY THE BEAUTIFUL had difficult topics to read about, but the novel provided a deep foundation for discussion.”We were not aware of eugenics in this country continuing into the 1970s. This book was well-researched and provided enough information that you could look further into our country’s history in pursuing and maintaining policies on forced sterilization. The themes of power/weakness, strength, and compliance versus complacency were a focus for our group. We discussed complacency as a weakness of character resulting in compliant behavior—if you don’t speak or act out you could be considered in support. Drawing from a historical perspective at this time in history we are all very complacent and history could easily be repeated. Additional topics of discussion included eugenics today and how decisions are being made regarding genetic technology, gene editing and embryo engineering. Several members in work in health care which also led to talk about inequality in access and information and how that impacts the choices available to individuals. We discussed how many events have occurred over time that one may not be aware of. One of the great benefits of reading is continuing learning for life. We recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction with strong historical components that lead to a robust discussion.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta: “We enjoyed our discussion about this thought-provoking and emotional book.” - We are taken on a journey of family, motherhood, and a fight to keep a child that faces unbearable challenges during this time in history, shifting between California in 1938 at a family-owned vineyard and Europe in 1947.

We enjoy historical fiction when we learn history that none of us were aware of. None of us knew what synesthesia was, and we had heard of eugenics because we read other books that explored this subject.  For many, it was difficult to read because of the portrayal of suffering during the war and when people just didn't accept others who were different.   

We discussed the options for at women and young girls at this time in history and the ability to make their own choices. That there was so much evil and so few tried to help and do what was right impacted us. We felt the main thread of the book was about family and how the deep desire to find a feeling of home, love, and safety is universal.   Everyone felt they learned a lot and was interested in other titles by Susan Meissner."

Menu: "California wine and rich desserts you would find in Vienna.  We met at Sparta Classic Diner for dinner and decadent desserts."

Literary Lovelies: ”We all loved ONLY THE BEAUTIFUL.  Our book club loves historical fiction and we all enjoyed the multiple storylines."-  This story was particularly heartbreaking, especially for the mothers in our group. We have met monthly for over 3 years and this was our first repeat author! We love Susan Meissner and this was our favorite GalleyMatch yet.

We had a good discussion regarding the period, if people would want another mouth to feed coming out of the Great Depression. We also discussed the family dynamics. It was eye-opening that this happened. In our day of a woman’s right to choose, it was devastating to see that these women were sterilized without any say at all or even knowledge of what was happening.  Although this was set against the backdrop of World War II it was a very different tale about this period. Meissner has a way of pulling the reader into the characters’ lives, leaving you thinking about them long after the book has been read. Recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction, heavy subjects, and books that take you out of your comfort zone."

Boys Book Club, San Jose California; Between the Lines, Woolwich, New Jersey Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
GENEVA by Richard C. Armitage (Pegasus 10/23)
A bold and unpredictable debut thriller set in Switzerland's biotech world (and deceptive beauty), by acclaimed actor Richard Armitage.  

 Boys Book Club:“ We enjoyed GENEVA, a page-turner! We found ourselves engrossed in a discussion about the complex themes in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, global intrigue, and the chilling notion of brain implants that seem all too real. These topics and the ethical dilemmas presented in the book sparked an interesting conversation. We enjoyed the characters and the author’s vivid descriptions. Those who listened to the audio version narrated by Richard Armitage, Nicola Walker, and Jane Perry highly recommended it.

Menu: “Cheese fondue, Toblerone chocolate. Two beers: Forgotten Thoughts and Stranger than Fiction"

Reading Between the Wines: “GENEVA was a great match for our book club. We love reading mysteries and thrillers and this fast-paced thriller set in Geneva, Switzerland in the world of biotech research, had some great red herrings to keep us interested and intrigued. We discussed the biotech world and the ethics surrounding new discoveries. We also discussed the dynamics between Sarah and her husband Daniel, and how her career as a  Nobel prize-winning scientist affected their relationship We enjoyed discussing GENEVA!. Lots of red herrings and a great twist kept the conversation going!"

Menu: "Chocolate fondue with fruit and cookies, cheese fondue and bread, mulled wine, and Toblerone!"

Between the Lines: "We were wowed that GENEVA is Richard’s debut novel—the last 20 minutes of the book had us on the edge of our seats!”-“We all enjoyed, this fast-paced thriller read. GENEVA dives into Alzheimer’s, family dynamics, and the biotech industry. It was a roller coaster ride. We have family members with medical illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and we’re interested in the biotech part of the story. We loved the ending and couldn’t get over how it unfolded—it was our favorite part. We recommend GENEVA to book clubs that enjoy a heart-pumping, edge-of-your-seat ending.  Richard Armitage narrates the male POV, so get the audio and give your ears a true treat."

Menu: "Fondue with Swiss cheese, as book is set in Switzerland"

Romancing the Hearthstone, Rogers Arkansas; Happy Bookers, Linn, Missouri; Legacy Literary Ladies, The Villages, Florida   
STREET CORNER DREAMS by Florence Reiss Kraut (SheWrites, 11/23)
A  novel about  Golda, who comes to America yearning for independence before World War I, but tosses aside her dreams of freedom and marries her widowed brother-in-law after her sister dies giving birth to their son.

Romancing the Hearthstone: “We all gave STREET CORNER DREAMS five stars!. We adored it. Most members couldn’t put it down and read it in two days. They loved the writing style and commented that the pacing was great for historical fiction— a page-turner.  This was a wonderful story told from the perspective of an immigrant. The novel made us feel so grateful for what we have. The discussion centered on how weak Ben was and how strong Goulda and Sarah were.  Members were invested in this story and wanted a sequel to know what happens to Morty.”

Legacy Literary Ladies: “Most members enjoyed STREET CORNER DREAMS from the onset, but ended up loving the novel. As the characters developed, the story was very believable, andhated to see it end, with engaging twists and turns. It is an emotionally charged story that reads easily and is well crafted.  A vivid portrayal of the immigrant experience with believable, vivid.  characters and an engaging story that we all felt a connection to.
Menu: Potato latkes

Happy Bookers: "STREET CORNER DREAMS was full of historical events, family drama with struggles, perseverance, and romance. The surprises and twists in various storylines kept our discussion going!"-The characters will long live in our reading memories: Golda, Ben, Morty, Anna, Sylvia, Surah, and Esther. The difficulties and struggles of these immigrants as they faced the events of the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, and World War 1 provide an influx of social history surrounding their lives. It was intriguing to read the family mysteries surrounding those characters, who are working toward their dreams, as they work through their difficulties and challenges. Which loves will prevail amidst the pressures of war, the gangs, and economic factors of the day as they work to make their way in their new land?

We didn’t know much about the gangs of New York. Families and businesses faced many obstacles and were targeted by gang threats of paying protection fees to survive. A main discussion topic was comparing our lives and advantages to the hardships of our nation's newcomers. We wondered if we could withstand the modes of travel, lack of communication and job opportunities, and health crises with limited care with the same fortitude." 

Menu: "Anna’s uncle Tony’s deli-inspired bread, salami, and Swiss cheese. We meet on the opening night of the Osage View restaurant overlooking beautiful rolling hills that many immigrants years ago came upon in settling in our county.


Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Lit Happens, California, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Missouri

THE FARMER'S WIFE by Helen Rebanks (Harper Horizon,  9/23)
An honest portrait of rural life and an authentic exploration of both the hard work and reward of keeping a home and raising a family.

Ranch Readers: We loved this memoir and felt it was rare in that it was raw and practical. It made us remember our own trials and tribulations of courtship, career choice, having babies, and the hard work of being a mother and supportive wife. Although Helen experienced many changes in lifestyle she ultimately realized being a wife and mother were the most important aspects of her life and those choices made her the happiest. We enjoyed the recipes she so effortlessly executed, and we felt almost like a family member, getting to know the various individuals she wrote about so intimately and from her heart. A few members spoke about the long hours of work and almost constant attention needed to maintain farm animals that farming involves, and how every member of the family has to contribute to maintaining a farm, the loneliness they often experienced by living isolated on a large farm as children, but also the joys of sharing the rebirth every spring of the farm animals' young and planting season being completed. They also remembered the joys of harvest season when other farmers would gather to help each other and then celebrate by sharing a large meal together. We all enjoyed reading about how food and cooking were important to the author and spoke about the recipes we wanted to try as we discussed the book. We also discussed how family farms contribute the most to preserving sustainable practices and how important it is to support farmers, shepherds, and ranchers. The memoir encouraged us to think about writing our own life stories and including favorite family recipes. Recommended for those who enjoy reading honest memoirs, and being a wife and mother.” 

Menu: “Helen's Lentil and Tomato Soup before our discussion--it was so delicious!—and her Lemon Drizzle Cake for dessert”

The Revivals: "We enjoy cooking and this book presented a wonderful opportunity for us to share our kitchen prowess by each of us preparing one or two dishes that came together as a shared dinner; family dinners being a priority for Helen. We discussed Helen's unique art and her enjoyment of creating a comfortable family home. We agree with Helen and share her enjoyment of home-cooked meals and family mealtimes. We discussed our own comfort levels with home births and marveled at Helen's thoughtfully made choices with her second child. We cheered for Helen when she perfectly described the many hats a stay-at-home mom wears and the feelings accompanying that life path. While possibly not given enough attention in the book, Helen writes with personal insight on the food choices we all should be paying more attention to and the farmers who provide our life-sustaining food. In clear and concise few short paragraphs, Helen has enlightened us on the importance of sustainable farming systems that encourage ‘good food from good farming.’. We recommend this book to those who enjoy coming of age, home cooking, memoirs, and women's studies. "

Menu: “Members chose and recreated recipes from the book: Smoked salmon rectangles, hummus and pita chips, frittata, field mushroom soup and croutons, easy chocolate cake, and panettone(bread and butter) pudding.”

Get Woke: "A magical evening! In honor of THE FARMER’S WIFE, and farm-to-table eating, we partnered with the Pleasant Grove Pizza- where host Emily creates unique pizzas with local and seasonal food, which enriched our discussion and palate. Rebanks reflects on her life revealing family struggles and relationships, the challenges of motherhood, and the stigma of honoring ‘small domestic things’ She champions the importance of the daily grind of domesticity. Her thoughts are enhanced by sketches, and family recipes are sprinkled throughout the book.

"Her ideas about the benefits of a simple life, and enthusiasm for farm life, and the prevailing attitudes regarding women’s roles struck a chord with our group. Several members grew up in farming families, and they recalled the wives’ drudgery, cooking, and cleaning as never-ending activities, feeling trapped in the house, constantly preparing field lunch boxes.
Rebanks feels the false perceptions and frustrations that can stereotype ‘life within the home”. The importance of mundane, day-to-day events is often overlooked. The prevalent, cultural dogma strongly suggests that 'life outside the home is more important than the one inside the home.' She realizes that there are all kinds of 'mums' that 'carry our own stuff on our shoulders,' and unless we have walked in each other’s shoes, we should not judge.
Rebanks focuses on food, including her journey as a cook and inherited family recipes. She encourages readers to shop locally and seasonally. In southern Minnesota, we enjoy local meat and produce, and this theme resonated. We designed our meeting to honor the local food movement. Our hosts Emily and Bill partner with local farmers, winemakers, and brewers. Their farm consists of 55 acres of prairie grassland and oak trees, home to animals, a wood-fired pizza oven, a barn, and a large garden. We celebrated THE FARMER’S WIFE with Emily’s unique food creations— and she joined our discussion."
Menu: "Smoked Salmon Crostini (inspired by Rebanks’ recipe) Piggy in the Orchard Pizza, Apple Pie Pizza, local wine."
Lit Happens:
Menu: Spaghetti Carbonara with Mushrooms, and Dauphinoise Potatoes. Scrambled Eggs and Homemade Fries, Maple-Sweetened Overnight Oat, Hot Chocolate Flight. Lemon Meringue Pie.

Chapter by Chapter Book Club of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Happy Bookers of Linn, Missouri; Words!Women!Wine! of Brookfield, Wisconsin

THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY by Katherine A. Sherbrooke  (Pegasus Books, 4/23)
The story of a runway model in 1940s Hollywood who makes a split-second decision intended to protect those she loves but triggers a cascade of secrets that threatens to upend her daughter’s life decades later.

Chapter by Chapter: "THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY was a great match. We really enjoy historical fiction and several members commented that they enjoyed the glimpse behind the scenes of the fashion industry in Hollywood. We were interested in how their lifestyle judged those involved in fashion and industry. Several members had read THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO and talked about the similarities between the two books. Told from the perspective of mother/daughter protagonists in dual time periods on opposite coasts, this one kept me turning the page late into the night. I didn’t expect to be so absorbed, but I highly recommend this read!"

Menu: "As a nod to Benny’s meatballs, our potluck included meatball pizza. Our drink was Caramel Apple Cider—a nod to the Berkshires, which was referenced in the novel."

Happy Bookers:  “From the fabulous cover to the title to the main character’s name, we were intrigued! When we learned that the book was inspired by the author‘s mother, it added even more interest. THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY is a story of secrets, of decisions, and the consequences of those decisions, with surprising twists and entanglements that kept us reading to learn how the mother’s choices impact her daughter’s life. Learning about Hollywood particularly the fashion, and glamour of 1940s Hollywood to 1970s Broadway was fascinating. Our conversation focused on the difficulty of life-altering decisions and their outcomes. We discussed the bonds of the chosen family and the strength of love and loyalty. An interesting point was how the story involved a coming of age for both Aster and her daughter Lissy. Choices involving Lissy’s Broadway and Noah’s music careers gave us much to talk about. And no one saw a big twist coming! I have since listened to several of the author's interviews and love her background story for this book. We look forward to reading more of her books. We recommend this novel to those who enjoy historical fiction about Hollywood, Broadway, and family drama."

Menu: “Our versions of Benny’s homemade meatballs and soup. When served, we commented on how this was the ultimate comfort food for this story.”

Words!Women!Wine!: "We all enjoyed this book and the strong female protagonists and both timeline plots. We had a great discussion with many viewpoints. We discussed  Sam and Aster's relationship. Both characters seemed to have conflicting feelings, although the relationship had some redeeming qualities One member noted that Aster had made so many fabrications about her life, it was hard to keep her secrets straight. It was as if the fabrications were woven into her background, much like her early desire to be a fashion designer. Many of us liked that Aster moved from clothing to sculpture and felt that was a well-developed plot line.

We all agreed that the love story of Fernando and Benedict/Christopher was the best in the book. We discussed it must have been for gay celebrities in the 40s & 50s and even still today. We had not heard of the term ' avender scare’ which led us into a discussion of discrimination and profits and politics. It was interesting to us that both females fixated on their one true love - even though initially they both let them go. Many of us thought it was predictable that Christopher/Benny would die after the lead-up to that scene, but we were all shocked in the end that the death had been fake. We had a lot of discussions around the death, funeral, and new stories. Suggested for clubs that enjoy a female-centered novel with a lot of relationships and secrets.

Menu: "Prosecco and shrimp cocktail (very Hollywood) and followed that with a "Tivoli dinner of caesar salad, penne & meatballs. We had an Italian Love cake for dessert! "                                                                                           

 

St. Louis Lit Book Club, Missouri; Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota  Angry Book Club, Norwich, Connecticut
THE INTERN by Michele Campbell, (St. Martin’s Press, 10/23)
A young Harvard law student falls under the spell of a charismatic judge in this timely and thrilling novel about class, ambition, family, and murder.

St. Louis Lit Book Club: “As fall nears the perfect book to pick up is a thriller like THE INTERN, which was interesting from the beginning. and the action was not far-fetched, which was nice for a thriller. Having two points of view allowed our book club to choose which characters we liked most and why. There were many characters to keep track of, which added layers to the discussion. Legal thrillers were new to some, and the reaction was positive to receiving a new type of book we may not have otherwise picked. Recommended for those who enjoy legal thrillers, and multi-character stories. and fast-paced mysteries."

Menu: "We drank wine to match the cover at Winnie's Wine Bar in St. Louis."

Angry Book Club: We enjoyed THE INTERN! We are known for being pretty critical (hence the anger) but this book got thumbs up, and we especially enjoyed the end! This book had me turning pages, especially with the switched perspectives! There was much conversation about Madison’s indecisiveness, which annoyed some members, while others thought it made her more relatable. We also discussed whether Katherine was smart enough to escape her situation without taking the steps she did. Several of us live near, or have spent time in Boston, and really enjoyed the Boston descriptions and mentions of real restaurants and places —the characters actually drink Dunkin, take the T (and get off at real stops), and live in areas of the city that make sense. This led to a great discussion about books that successfully create a sense of place and the joy of reading books about places we have lived. Recommended for those who enjoy legal thrillers.

Melanie's Book Club: "We all loved THE INTERN. It was a great match for our book club because it's rare for us to find a book that we all enjoy and this was that book! We had an excellent discussion about the book, specifically talking about the relationships among the characters in the book- and how they affected their decision-making. Being from the Midwest, we couldn't really relate to the mob connections, but we could relate to family difficulties and making difficult decisions regarding family members  We had many discussions about our families and the different relationships, troubles, and decisions. We know each other well, but it was interesting to learn more and refreshing to hear that all families have issues and work through them in different ways. Recommended for those who enjoy conflict, suspense, and deciding how far you'll go to protect your family."     

The Famished for Fiction Book Club of Frisco, Texas, Flagstaff Ladies Book Club, Arizona, Boozy Books Book Club and Kaukauna Wisconsin

YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 5/23)
A YA novel about Harriet Douglass, a teenager living with her historian father on a plantation turned enslaved people's museum, who must handle her feelings of anger when an actress who purchased the plantation next door, plans to turn it into an event venue.

Famished for Fiction: “We loved this multilayered story. The magnitude of all the things affecting Harriet led to a lot of thoughtful discussion. We gave it 5/5 stars!"

The setting of the book reminded us of Whitney Plantation in South Louisiana. We discussed the struggle that exists between the beauty of the plantation homes and grounds the acknowledgment of the horrors of slavery and the pain and suffering of the enslaved people that were forced against their will to build those homes and maintain those grounds. Is it possible to be in awe of those beautiful places and yet heartbroken by the pain that surrounds them?

The importance of seeing both sides of a story and acknowledging them is what leads to improvement in our relationships with people who are different from ourselves. Harriett spent much time caring for herself as her father was unable to do more than the bare minimum after the death of her mother. Harriett's anger with outsiders' inability to see, acknowledge, and respect the purpose of a landmark such as their plantation. We recommend this book to those who enjoy thought-provoking reads that have a different perspective from the 'norm. We are a diverse group of women who enjoy thought-provoking books that enhance our discussion and this was a great fit."

Menu:  Down South Kitchen and Bakery for Southern food

Boozy Books: "Thank you for the match! We might not have read YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY otherwise. When a book makes you cry it’s automatically a great book .We liked the mix of the main character's naïveté and cynicism as the book progresses. We discussed toxic parenting and our perceptions of the adults, the character’s adjustments as they navigate issues, our appreciation of having a flawed main character, and the grace given to Layla but not the white friends she grew up with. We were interested in the 17-year-old perspective—and all the current social issues and cultural references, such as TikTok. 'What’s up with teen/middle school boys and frogs' stood out as an amusement.

We recommend this novel to clubs who enjoy contemporary social issue books, or DEAR MARTIN or THE HATE YOU GIVE.”

Flagstaff Ladies: “We all enjoyed this novel, which spurred much discussion about the South (none of us grew up there), plantations, tourist rentals, grief, and growing up a person of color in today's America. We also liked the main character because Harriet is such a teenager —more than half of us are moms of girls).

We live in a tourist town, so though the housing isn't all historic, there are wealthy outsiders who have second homes here, so the way Harriet bristles at the new neighbors resonated. The way she also kind of liked the new girl and determined she was human was also something a few of us could identify with. And her anger issues...not unfamiliar! It was a great trait to give Harriet, and we talked a bit about our own struggles with rage, as well as dealing with others who have trouble controlling theirs.

We have a significant Native-American presence in our city, so that is where we see discrimination, disrespect, and racism crop up, and we had a great discussion about how as women, we also see (and experience) these micro- or upfront- aggressions more readily than our male partners. We also discussed being in a bit of a bubble because it is a small city, and there are no obvious monuments to discrimination that we would drive by all the time (on the nearby reservation, yes). The discussion about grief was also interesting -- how do you remember your loved ones? Do you remember their last days or the rest of their lives? We had a debate about Dawn and what we would have thought about our daughters dating him, or a friend dating their childhood buddy. We liked him but realized we would have been protective of Harriet because she was not very savvy about relationships. We thought the story was well-written and it was nice that it didn't end with everything neatly resolved -- that was realistic. Recommended for those who enjoy novels about young adults, the South, and that discuss racism."                                        

Menu: "One of our group stopped at fast food on the way to book club. Shout out to Harriet's dad!"        

 The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Woodlands Lunch and Books, Woodlands, Texas Get Woke, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado "

CHASING THE PANTHER: Adventures and Misadventures of a Cinematic Life Carolyn Pfeiffer with Gregory Collins (Harper Horizon, 6/23)
Film producer and early Hollywood female coming-of-age memoir, set against the backdrop of Fellini's Rome, French New Wave Paris, and Swinging London.

Get Woke: "CHASING THE PANTHER reads like a novel: encounters with the rich and famous; travels to exotic cities and countries, experiences, and success as a pioneering film producer and PR representative. We called Pfeiffer the ‘female Forrest Gump’'–Readers travel on a high-speed train rocketing through Pfeiffer’s coming-of-age adventures as she explores NYC and Europe during the turbulent 1960s-‘70s amidst the significant cultural shifts and the ascendance of the film industry. Pfeiffer vividly describes the art, culture, and society of post-war Europe and New York City. Her insights into the actors and film industry were fascinating. The film industry's growth is part of a larger story involving changing attitudes and paradigm shifts of the post-war years, a time when many of us also came of age. The introduction of the birth control pill and Pfeiffer’s romantic encounters mirrored the cultural changes. Book club invitations featured film strips. members were asked to become film directors: and select highlights from the book for a film preview. We discussed the changing role of women and Pfeiffer’s lifetime goal of ‘pushing boundaries’. She felt you had to ‘leave yourself behind’ to discover uniqueness. We were drawn to her comments on women’s status: the expectation that a woman’s role was to be worthy of a man. Her reply resonated: ‘Let no one ever call me worthy.’ Pfeiffer challenged the attitudes of patriarchy, the power of men, and the sensuality of women. Her adventures allowed us to experience the paradigm shifts occurring in the world—positive and negative We agreed her talents, opportunities, and personality allowed her to take advantage of this era, and the difficulty of duplicating this experience today."

Menu: "Honoring her European adventures: Caprese skewers, olives, goat cheese & figs, Pinot Grigio."

The Revivals: “CHASING THE PANTHER covers so many points of interest that it was easy for us to chat all the way through dessert!" We took turns reading and discussing Carolyn's numerous life reflections and insights - we highlighted dozens of quotes. We marveled at Carolyn's remarkable and brave life as she fearlessly pursued her goals. It felt like two books in one: Carolyn's honest and heartfelt observations about her experiences, and a comprehensive cinematic timeline from Europe to the United States. We focused on the former, but scholars will find a valuable resource in the cinematic narrative. As Pfeiffer discussed celebrities, producers, and directors— at times this overwhelmed us, but we are not familiar with the industry and these details were a first exposure. We enjoyed Carolyn's numerous life reflections. GalleyMatch has inspired us to read books we would not have known about and/or genres we would not have selected on our own."

Menu: "Lunch overlooking the lake with multicultural appetizers: Baba ganoush with toasted pita bread (a nod to Omar Sharif); Beet and goat cheese dip with assorted fresh vegetables (Market Fresh Vegetables like one would shop for in France), Avocado chicken salad with jicama and peperoncini peppers on a bed of lettuce with French baguette (A nod to Italy) Dessert:-Lemon buttermilk ice cream with black currant jam and sugar cone."

Woodlands Lunch and Books:  "A good match for It is interesting to read about lives so different from our own and we enjoyed this coming-of-age story.  In a world of cinematic greats, it was fun to read some of the portrayals from Carolyn’s perspective.  A member commented that reading the book made them want to see Doctor Zhivago and another mentioned that they loved Omar Sharif even more after reading the book.  There was a discussion of a disturbing scene in the book and many were disappointed at the actor involved.  We also enjoyed the descriptions of some of the locales throughout Europe that we knew.  As Carolyn discovered herself through the many ups and downs of her early life, it was fascinating to watch her independence shine, especially with Suso d’Amico supporting her career choices. A few members were unfamiliar with numerous names and had to search online for them. Those that enjoy biographies and memoirs, especially of old Hollywood would enjoy this book."

Ranch Readers: "We recall the 1950s and '60s and thoroughly enjoyed CHASING THE PANTHER—the people, films, and occasions were familiar to us, making it a delightful read.

We found Ms. Pfeiffer's memoir exceptionally captivating and thought-provoking. It provided a glimpse into the golden era of cinema behind the scenes. We sympathized with her misfortunes and rejoiced in her successes as a self-sufficient and accomplished woman. We remember the movie era when Carolyn began her career and those she met and interacted with throughout. Although it seemed she lived a fairy tale life, Carolyn faced traumatic events she recounted with candor. Her strength and determination allowed her to overcome adversity and lead a fulfilling artistic life. Her memoir offers a glimpse into the world of fame and fortune in the film industry and a raw, honest portrayal of her struggles and triumphs.

The images added to our enjoyment—several members remembered having photos of Omar Sharif on their bedroom walls as teenagers. We discussed our recollections of the era that Carolyn described, including the films, directors, and producers she mentioned. Despite the notable progress made in women's rights, we realized many obstacles Carolyn faced still endure. The consensus was that success in the film industry depends on connections, and we were impressed by her ability to form relationships with influential figures, and that she was able to rise above her tragedies with grace and not let them deter her from living her best life. Recommended for readers who enjoy a memoir full of experiences more interesting than fiction and film history."

Menu: "Italian cookies that were a tribute to Carolyn's adventures in Italy."

Junior League Book Club of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Spectacles Book  Club, Geneva, Ohio, and Hagerstown Housewives, Hagerstown, Maryland
NO TWO PERSONS  by Erica Bauermeister (St. Martin's Press, 5/2/23)
A novel about the ways in which one book transforms its readers' lives.

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “Every member loved NO TWO PERSONS, the first book in a long time that we overwhelmingly agreed that we loved.T his book is about a book and the reactions and experiences of nine people who encounter it. Even those that couldn’t attend our discussion were texting with their input— the consensus—this book is a home run. We had a great discussion centered around the first line of the fictional book ‘Wandering is a gift given only to the lost,’ and the idea that no two people ever experience anything exactly the same way.

We discussed the way each character responded to the book and why we felt they were so drawn to it. We loved the little Easter Eggs of how characters were connected and agreed that the widower's story was one of our favorites/most heartbreaking. We loved how the story of each character seemed like it could be a stand-alone short story.

“We were surprised that our entire book club loved the book— we tend to be very opinionated and are almost always split on our reading selections. And that we all loved it was much more interesting, as the theme is about how people experience books differently. Just Ike the characters in the book, we had different experiences and reactions while reading it, but in the end, we were all drawn to it for many of the same reasons. Every last one of us recommends NO TWO PERSONS, especially for those who enjoy short stories, unique characters, and lively discussion."

Spectacles: "We agreed that NO TWO PERSONS was a perfect match for our group. What a thought-provoking book. Each book club member’s favorite parts, thoughts, characters, and quotes began a lively conversation about the value and power of words. The individual stories demonstrated how one book can affect readers in amazing and unexpected ways.  It was interesting to read how one book connected all the characters. 

We loved all of the characters and their stories, and everyone in our book club had a favorite.  As teachers, many of us connected with Nola—a character we could easily relate to—and we thought William and Abigail's story was heartbreaking.  We learned through Alice's story that in many ways, a writer's own life experiences affect what is written.We explored the character in each story and saw how the stories were connected.  We discussed how parts of Alice's book were found in each chapter.  It was interesting to see how and when we were able to put the bits and pieces together to tell Theo's story.   As the chapters progressed, we were able to see the impact that the book had on each person and how they moved on.  This book reminded us that no two persons interpret the same book in the same way and interpretations that we share depend on where we are at a certain time.  In addition to the written stories, we loved how the cover depicted the nine readers!

We shared some of our favorite quotes for discussion, such as ‘The beauty of books—they take you places you didn't know you needed to go.’

Menu: "Foods connected to stories: Ramen noodle salad, granola bars (Nola). PBJ sliders and potato chips (Alice and Peter), banana muffins (William)"

Hagerstown Housewives:  “We all enjoyed NO TWO PERSONS. Erica Bauermeister's writing was loved by all. We loved the premise that one story can affect people differently. Some of the most interesting topics were the different chapters that each individual person in my book club liked and their reasons why. We discussed the different stories that resonated. Since we are all book lovers in our book club, we connected to the story of each of the 9 persons who read about Theo.   We all had a soft spot for the book and its many characters. We recommend for those who enjoy relatable stories that connect people in inspiring ways.”                     

Famished for Fiction, Frisco, Texas; Lit Ladies, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Between the Pages, Mt. Morris, New York
BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by Diane Chamberlain( St. Martins Press, 2020)
A novel of chilling intrigue, a decades-old disappearance, and a woman’s quest for the truth.

Famished for Fiction: We highly recommend BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN, which will remain with us for a long time. The contrasting timelines of the 1940s and the present day, as well as the varying perspectives, made for a captivating read." -

"Chamberlain's writing was impressive, and she has now become one of our favorite authors. Our club enjoyed this intricately crafted book and appreciated the diversity of opinions from our multi-racial group. We learned about the WPA project and the historical setting of Edenton, North Carolina, which we found fascinating. During our discussions, we explored the complex relationships between characters, such as Jesse and Anna, Morgan and Oliver. We delved into the secrets that Nellie kept, and the burden of family responsibility. The ending kept us guessing, and the short chapters made it easy to follow the multiple storylines. Most members gave this novel a 5/5 rating.”

Lit Ladies: "We all enjoyed this novel and it inspired great discussion—success! We discussed the dual timelines, the connections between the protagonists, the art restoration process and research, the epilogue ending, and various aberrations/additions in the mural that Anna added. Members commented that they ‘binged it,’ ‘loved it, ‘couldn’t put it down,’ and “read 250 pages at once.' We recommend to clubs that enjoy historical thrillers and mysteries."

Between the Pages: “Thank you for this read! Hot discussion topics were the dual storyline, life in prison, the big reveal, and small-town life. We live in a small area, so that was discussed at length. We recommend for those clubs that enjoy Intertwined storylines and thrills."                        

Thrillers by the Bookclub-SoCal, and Reckless Readers, Eastford, Connecticut
THE SOULMATE by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 4/23)
A thriller about marriage, betrayal, and the secrets that push us to the edge,

Thrillers by the Bookclub-SoCal: "We loved THE SOULMATE!, a perfect match for our book club. Most agreed that this one is one of our favorite Sally Hepworth We’re huge fans of hers. Half of our book club met Sally in person during her book tour at Zibby's Bookshop— fantastic! 

"We discussed the dynamics between the two couples and which one was the true soulmate. We appreciated how the author added important topics such as mental health, adoption, and addiction. The characters were intriguing and the level of suspense had us on the edge of our seats. We loved having the perspective of Amanda which gave us a great insight into details about the characters’ relationships.

We enjoyed talking about Gabe’s transformation from the beginning of the story, when we all thought he was a wonderful human being, to the end,  where many details about his character are revealed. The discussion questions provided an excellent guide for our chat. We recommend THE SOULMATE to book clubs that enjoy reading suspenseful family dramas with an atmospheric setting."

Reckless Readers: Normally we discuss the book for a little while, and then jump to other topics. Not last night! There was too much to discuss after reading THE SOULMATE —everyone loved the book and the twists! This book was such a conversation starter! Sally Hepworth is so good at working mental health into her books. Hepworth nailed the portrayal of mental illness as well as codependency— the character Gabe was hard to read, because of how accurately she depicted his illness. Members wanted to break down the relationship between Pippa and Gave, and how forgiving Pippa was when most people would walk. It was an emotional conversation, with so many personal perspectives and stories.

Most members had never read a Sally Hepworth book. After last night, everyone added her books to their TBR lists. I’ve been reading her for years, and was happy to see they felt the same way about her books! Sally is an excellent storyteller. Thank you so much for the excellent #GalleyMatch.

Menu: "Soulmate bars—peanut butter & jelly—the ultimate soulmate of food! And “The Drop Martini” —a cranberry lemon drop martini, that will send you over the edge after only a few! " 

Get Lit Book Club, Coto de Caza, California, and April's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas

THE STORIES WE TELL: Every Piece of Your Story Matters by Joanna Gaines (Harper Select . 11/8/22)
The first solo memoir from the Magnolia co-founder.

April's Book Chat: THE STORIES WE TELL sparked lively conversations and reflections among our members. Many members resonated with Gaines' experiences of racial hate and bullying, finding validation in their own experiences with mixed heritage. The book inspired us to consider journaling as a means of processing life's events and thoughts, and we appreciated the pearls of wisdom scattered throughout the text. While some members debated whether the book was self-help or memoir, others simply enjoyed it for what it was. We recommend this book to fans of personal development books.

We met at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Shops at Creekside in Frisco, Texas, a cozy spot with a welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of Gaines' own design style, making it the perfect location for our discussion."

Get Lit: "We’re all fans of Chip and Joanna’s and enjoyed learning more about her. Chip is so funny and Joanna always appears to be calm, so it was interesting learning about her childhood and the difficulties she faced.

“Everyone agreed the book was a fast read and we enjoyed getting to know Joanna and her story, earning about how she grew up, met Chip, how they started their business and raised children in a world that can be harsh sometimes. We discussed ‘growing up being ‘different’ than her classmates and how we overcame that. Some members found junior high to be difficult while others struggled in high school. We recommend it to those who enjoy memoirs/ nonfiction/self-help. Fans of Chip and Joanna should pick up THE STORIES WE TELL, and sit down to read it with some biscuits and jam as we did!”
Menu: “We made and discussed recipes from THE MAGNOLIA TABLE COOKBOOK! We enjoyed Joanna‘s famous biscuits, silo cookies, scones, and stuffed mushrooms. Joanna is gifted with her baking and decorating— such a unique individual."

Jensen Beach County Club's Womens Book Club of Florida,  The Wine Club With a Book Problem of Acworth, Georgia, and Blu Stocking Literary Society of West Allis, Wisconsin
THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS by M.J. Rose (Blue Box, 2/23)

A tale of two passionate women— a  famous jewelry designer who fights to protect her company and rescue the man she loves, and an auctioneer whose gifts reveal a secret that endangers her very life, 

Jensen Beach County Club:  “We loved the descriptions of the jewelry that Suzanne Belperron made and the majority of us had researched Suzanne's designs after reading the book.A good match for our book club. We enjoy historical fiction or books with strong women. This novel features a dual timeline— France, 1942, and New York, 1986. Suzanne is a sought-after jewelry designer in France and her longtime lover and business partner, Bernard has been arrested by the Nazis. Violine is an appraiser for an auction company in 1986 and has been approached by Paul Osgood about selling family antiques. While visiting his home, she discovers a hidden compartment in a vintage Louis Vuitton case containing WWII-era jewelry. Violine is gifted with learning the history and secrets of objects she touches, and their owners and realizes that the jewelry has a long and tragic history. Violine and Paul work together to discover the history of the case and the jewelry. We discussed how Dixie and Suzanne demonstrated this in their work for the resistance movement."

Menu: "French rose wine, croissants, olives, brie, baguettes with French butter, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, dark chocolate squares, and cappuccino."

The Wine Club With a Book Problem "THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS is a captivating and powerful story that grabs you from the first page— a good match for as we like historical fiction with strong women. We enjoy books in which we learn something new, and the story prompts us further investigate a topic—in this case, Suzanne Belperron, one of the most innovative jewelers of her time, and her jewelry designs. This intriguing story explored Suzanne Belperron's courage and those who participated in the French Resistance by helping Jewish families leave France. We liked the novel's alternating dual timelines—Paris 1942 and New York 1986—which link Suzanne and Violine, an art historian/appraiser with a  supernatural gift.  We noted that this is the first book we've read that involves psychometry.” 

Rose has written a beautiful and descriptive story. We recommend this book to those that enjoy magical realism, suspense, and World War II fiction."

Menu: "Brie, apples, Classic French Salad (romaine, tarragon, chives, walnuts with a lemon vinaigrette, Ina Garten's Bouef Bourguignon, Mashed Potatoes, macarons. truffles."

Blu Stocking: An excellent selection for our club. This story was fascinating and the psychometry was an interesting twist. We enjoy reading about real people in history within a historical fiction context. While the characters are placed in a fictional story, there is much to take away. Several of us did some research on Suzanne Belperron and her jewelry designs. We also like the alternating timeline. robust discussion. We discussed psychometry's 'unbelievable' aspect juxtapositioned with an equally 'unbelievable' period of history as the holocaust. Also, we talked about the courage and actions of people in this world that are so brave and committed even in the face of personal danger, as well as the variety of themes—determination, strength of character, hope, faith, and love in all its incarnations, lovers (Suzanne/Bernard/Jean), friends (Suzanne & Dixie) and love of country/places (France)”

Curious Book Club,  Frederick, Maryland; St. Louis Women’s Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; First Saturday Book Club, Pensacola, Florida

PRACTICE GIRL by Estelle Laure (Penguin Teen, 5/22)
A novel about a girl who rejects her label and decides for herself who she is to the world—about reputation and double standards,

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: “The themes were fantastic and the character was so likable. This YA novel explores high school, sexuality, friendships, and relationships. The themes of finding first loves and figuring out who you are made for great conversation! We discussed how high school is portrayed in the media today— are students really doing drugs, alcohol, and sex, as much as they portray? The book was well written and it was easy to visualize the small town high school. There were great moments in the friendships and relationships that are good lessons for that demographic.

Curious Book Club: “It was fun to read a book we typically wouldn’t have chosen - we hadn’t even heard of this one!t’s a YA coming of age/romance that features an angsty teenager that is coping with the loss of a parent and being used by boys who she thinks care for her. The story focuses on the challenges of dating and sex in high school. We loved the friendship storyline that developed throughout the book. Although the main character is very angsty, the emotions were real and raw throughout the story.  We thought that the ending of the story was the most interesting! We loved that Jo was able to have a heart-to-heart with her mom and stepdad to build a better relationship with her family. We all were in favor of the guy she chooses in the end! l. Recommended for those who enjoy YA coming-of-age stories.”

Menu: We met at a diner because there was a diner in the story!

First Saturday Book Club: "We had a great discussion about PRACTICE GIRLan honest, moving YA read that should be in the hands of more teens. PRACTICE GIRL offers a strong look at what it means to participate in a relationship and the need for teens to understand the ramifications of sex and responsibility and dedication to relationships. The author writes with emotional depth—we feel everything Jo goes through, and we root for Jo to win at wrestling and life. It’s clever, charming, and poignant. 

We discussed teenage behaviors: that Jo was not responsible for Sam kissing her yet she is blamed, how girls need to have girl relationships so they have support, the importance of family, taking others into consideration while establishing boundaries, and understanding the relationship before sex. Also, that growing up and having friendships change is difficult but a part of growing up. We all enjoyed this coming-of-age novel, recommended for this for groups that enjoy YA lit with emotional depth."

Happy Bookers, Linn Missouri, Lit Ladies Read Melbourne, Florida, and St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; and Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
WEYWARD by Emila Hart (St. Martin's Press, 3/23)

A novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world

Happy Bookers: “A gem of a book with resilient female characters is our favorite GalleyMatch to date.”- on a novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world, read with galleys from
“Hart has given us much to ponder in a most bewitching tale. Altha, Violet, and Kate will long stay with us for their resilience and fortitude. We agreed that witchcraft isn’t accomplished through spells, but by their connection to the world around them -— and that was most appreciated and enjoyed. We cheered at the comeuppance of the perpetrators who caused harm both physical and mental to the female characters. We discussed the plight and strength of women over the ages dealing with similar treatment. The three women characters were enthralling. The author wove the three timelines of the Weyward women’s lives together expertly. Their plight, resourcefulness, and special powers along with their ties to nature and their strength to survive amidst adversity and ill-treatment earn these characters a place in your heart. The short chapters breeze along while keeping the depth of the characters and story strong. Highly recommended by our group to fellow readers. The perfect fall read. The perfect anytime read! Cannot wait to read more from this author.”

Menu: Orton stew (chicken and rice soup) W pendant cakes(cupcakes), Witches sticks and twigs (fried tortilla strips), Cottage dip (cowboy caviar), Crow Bars (brownie bites), Insect Wings(corn chips), Graham Crackers(saltines and wheat thins), and Morgs(moon drop grapes)in a member’s backyard and woods for our book reenactments."

Lit Ladies Read:“ We loved everything about this book! This is a very compelling read that highlights the connection between women, family, and nature."
WEYWARD is a beautifully written story about the strength and resilience of three different women. The story is told in alternating timelines, in different centuries leaving the reader to wonder how these women are related. The Weyward women all face similar, yet different, hardships of violence, abuse, and expectations of society that they must overcome. The women all have a very strong connection to nature and find strength and inner peace through this connection. The alternating timelines advance the story and keep you wanting more. The descriptive language paints a clear picture, and we loved the alternating timelines—each character's story was compelling and gave a feel for what these women had to endure. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the treatment of women who were deemed ’weird’ throughout history. It is frightening to think that there was a period in history when women could be labeled witches and executed based on nothing more than conjecture and failure to conform to societal expectations. Altha's storyline, in particular really highlighted how ludicrous the idea of witchcraft really is and how scared people were of anyone who was different. Another hot topic was domestic abuse and how difficult it can be for abused women to escape their abuser. Both Kate's and Violet's stories dealt with physical and sexual abuse that required both women to find the strength to remove themselves from their situations. We recommend for those who enjoy stories about women finding their inner strength to overcome hardship.”

Menu: Witching Hour Cabernet Sauvignon and witch hat cupcakes.

St. Louis: "WEYWARD was intense, honest and deeply connected to today’s time The three timelines and main character add layers of interconnected themes and details. At first glance, these are very different women but ultimately all face similar situations. We discussed feminism and the growth of women throughout time, how the patriarchy impacts women’s abilities to make choices, and Nature vs nurture—these women all were born to be Weyward, not raised to be Weyward.
Recommended for those who enjoyed THE LOST APOTHECARY by Sarah Penner; three perspectives or time periods in stories; the power of nature; books about powerful women and the ability to be strong despite the circumstances and external environment. This book has some trigger warnings that I think all readers need to be extremely mindful of before reading (physical/verbal abuse, parental abuse, rape, pregnancy loss, abortion, jail).

Reading Between the Wines: “This book was a perfect match for our club. We all enjoyed this story of three women from the same family line at different points in time. There was so much to discuss here: our connection to the natural world, overcoming trauma, giving yourself grace, and the strength and resilience of women, feminism, women’s connection to the natural world, family legacies, and overcoming trauma We thought the author did a great job incorporating the interconnected stories of Althea, Violet, and Kate. Recommended to book clubs that enjoy women’s fiction, historical fiction with dual timelines, and a touch of magical realism.

Menu: "Food to honor the garden at Weyward cottage, including veggie crackers with garden vegetables, and basil cheese, roasted vegetable pizza, and fresh veggies with hummus. We also had blueberry scones with jam and tea and biscuits as a nod to the English settings in the book."

Longwood Ladies, Goshen, Kentucky and Colonies Book Club, Yorkville, Illinois
ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE by Noelle Salazar ( Mira,/ HTP, 11/22)
A story inspired by true events, about courageous women who risked everything for their country, family, and each other

Longwood Ladies: “ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE was a great book club book.We all loved learning about a neutral country. It was a new take on that era that we all really enjoyed! We discussed how much we learned about the World War II era, We talked a lot about and enjoyed the fact that it shined the light on a true sister act.  It was the first historical fiction I’ve read that took place in the Netherlands during World War II. It was a refreshing change to hear the trials from a neutral neighbor. The characters were easy to relate to and love and my heart was wrenched by their bravery and struggles. We fell in love with the characters —they were strong, intelligent, patient women right from the start and their growth and determination were astounding. We recommend ANGELS to those who enjoy historical fiction and reading about strong women! If you enjoyed THE LILAC GIRLS, ROSE CODE, or Salazar’s first book, FLIGHT GIRLS, you will enjoy this historical fiction. We all thank you immensely!”

Colonies Book Club: "Some members were in tears throughout this beautifully told story of two young sisters who risk everything for their homeland during World War II. Our members loved this book. Some comments: A heart-wrenching read that is full of tenderness, resilience, courage, brutality, and devotion. The author did a great job of opening our eyes to the hardships of living through Nazi occupation Salazar demonstrated how strong the bonds of sisters, family, and friends are in a powerful way. This story is told from the perspective of a young teenage girl and how innocence is lost through the actions necessary to fight the evil that ripped her country apart. We were unfamiliar with the occupation of the Netherlands and learned about their struggle with starvation and freezing during the last years of the war. We couldn’t imagine girls getting involved with the resistance and what they were willing to do for their country. We all felt the guilt that Lien carried throughout her life over her little sister's death and the catalyst that was for her to join the resistance. We loved the epilogue and the closure it gave us about all of the character

Literary Lovelies, Yonkers, New York; Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut: CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut
THE VILLA by Rachel Hawkins(St. Martin's Press, 1/23)
A gothic suspense novel set at an Italian villa with a dark history.

Literary Lovelies:" We all loved the book! This book has books within the book!”-“We discussed both storylines and if we found ourselves drawn to one story or the other. Susan loved the dual timelines and thought the Mari storyline felt like a movie! We also discussed whether we saw that Mark and Chess were together. A lot of people had thoughts on Chess! We decided she was either a Love or hate character. We also discussed if you have to like the characters to like a book. Chelsey thought the book reminded her of Rachel’s other books and talked about her distinct writing style. We loved how easy it was to read, and enjoyed the epistolary chapters that enhanced the story. We felt the book wrapped up a little quickly and we wished that Emily had stood up for herself a little more! But the Italy location was a favorite of ours as well as the slight gothic style of the Mari plot line. We recommend THE VILLA to clubs that enjoy dual timelines in beautiful settings! Thank you so much for this opportunity!"

Menu: "We meet virtually, but enjoyed some limoncello while reading the book! Emily and Chess are a little over-served on limoncello their first night in Italy."

CT Lit Book Club: This book had us in a heated discussion about what we would do if we were in the main character’s situation. We found ourselves in a coffee shop yelling about dead husbands and realized we probably should put our books on the tabble so other patrons see we are actually discussing a book!!
“We were excited to preview a Rachel Hawkins title! The majority of us have read THE WIFE UPSTAIRS and RECKLESS GIRLS, along with some of her Erin Sterling books.
We had high expectations for THE VILLA, as it is highly anticipated by the bookstagram community. Overall, we expected it to be more ‘thrilling’, but we enjoyed it and were enthralled wondering what was going to end up happening and how the two stories of what took place at the villa were going to bridge together. One member described her reading experience as the story ‘always having an air of suspicion to keep her intrigued.’ We really loved the setting of the villa in Italy and loved the throwbacks to the 70s! We recommend this book to those that enjoy drama, and books like BIG LITTLE LIES.’

Reckless Readers: "Everyone loved the book, rating it Hawkins’s best yet!"- “This is our second GalleyMatch for a Rachel Hawkins book, and we were very excited! Most members read THE VILLA in two sittings We could not wait to rant about the characters we hated, dissect the twists, and gush over the amazing setting. There was a lot of early chatter in the week before our meeting — those that finished it early could not wait to have our discussion.

The level of betrayal among friends was the biggest discussion. We loved the setting, the dual timelines, and the parallels between them. The twists were nonstop and unexpected, which kept us page-turning. The dual timelines made the story. Going from Emily & Chess presently staying at the Villa, to Mari in 1974, the reader gets the full picture of what really happened at The Villa Aestas. Both stories have parallels that are frightening. It seems that you can’t stay at the Villa without it taking someone from you. There are love triangles, friendship deceits, thrilling reveals, and murder to fit everyone’s appetite. It’s dark and atmospheric in ways we have never seen from Rachel Hawkins. She packed so many surprises into this book, but the last chapter is the biggest. There was a hot debate among the group on whether that last chapter was even necessary. How many twists are too many? We recommend if you enjoy big twisty thrillers that grip you until the end —add it to your preorder list! It's out in January, and will be on everyone’s hot list for 2023!"

Menu: “Italian lemon theme to match book: lemon basil pasta salad, lemon ricotta hot cheese dip, limoncello cocktails.”

Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Riverside Readers, Plain City, Ohio; Amy's Book Club, Boulder Colorado
A LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Melissa Payne (Lake Union, 2022)
An emotional and suspenseful novel about the weight of secrets and the healing power of friends and family.

Riverside Readers: “We loved the Ohio setting and although Crystal was a made-up town, we have been to similar small towns and could picture the intent while we read. We appreciated the fun and quirky characters with a hint of underlying mystery in the book. don't know. We discussed the small town, the stereotypes, and the reality, not all small towns in Ohio are like that but we knew why the author picked to use the stereotypical poor/mining town in Appalachia. The timelines coordinated well together with the flashbacks. The characters of the small town were unique and we liked how they interacted with each other—they balanced the trauma. The reader's guide for this book was great. Thank you! We love being introduced to new authors and this time it helped build a new small community of readers, as this is a new book club."

Amy's Book Club: "The setting drew us in, the characters moved us, and the story had us in its grip —and caused many of us to stay up way too late reading. Everyone loved the characters and felt invested in their stories, and wanted to know more about some of the more peripheral characters. We discussed, justice, bullies getting away with things, whether the law is involved or not, and how the town changed regarding violence toward the LGBTQIA+ community. We discussed the repetition of ‘running’ at the beginning and how it would have felt to be Vega just trying to escape and survive; the town dynamics and why it was mostly accepted that the Harrisons could bully who they pleased without repercussions — contrasted with the senseless shooting that took place the night before we met in Colorado Springs and whether we thought there would or could be justice.
We discussed which of the lovable/heroic characters we enjoyed the most and whether Vega was a hero or a victim;, the pacing of how quickly Vega developed community in Crystal, secrets and why they should be kept or told; our reactions to Vega checking Instagram and our internal screamings at her of what we wanted her to do, the town's support of Eve, and what would happen next for all of them. We recommend A LIGHT IN THE FOREST to book clubs that enjoy complicated relationships and a multi-decade mystery to unravel."

Melanie’s Book Club:" We loved the opportunity to preview A LIGHT IN THE FOREST. We are reading another Melissa Payne book this month, as a result! Everyone had positive comments and the book made for great conversation. One member who is stingy with book ratings gave our selection 5 stars. This is a thoughtful, well-written book that discusses real-life issues with great character development. A main discussion point was the different social issues addressed in the book and that the author didn't 'preach' about them. Our group has many teachers and nurses in it and this made an impact on us, especially since we see these issues in the lives of our students and patients. We appreciated the character development and that through the different points of view, we were able to put pieces of the puzzle together before Vega did, yet it didn’t take away from the mystery. This book is a must-read! We look forward to seeing if her other books have a similar writing style and theme."

Madame Woods Book Club of Wiscasset, Maine, and Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
THE WAYS WE HIDE, by Kristina McMorris (Sourcebooks, 2022)
A sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.Madame Woods: “This book changed the way some of our readers perceive historical fiction. We were amazed at the authors’ ability to weave real-life events into an intricate and complex story. McMorris grabbed our attention with her latest novel, based on true facts This character-driven novel has elements of romance and suspense with a bittersweet ending. The novel begins with the main character Fenna whose life was significantly shaped by a stampede on Christmas Eve. Her perseverance from childhood helped her maintain her determination and profound instinct to get through life’s challenges along the way. Fenna, an intelligent character, is shaped by life events and uses those experiences to maneuver through challenges. This novel has elements of history and fiction interwoven in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are right alongside the characters.
We discuss the intricacies of the story and how relatable the main character was. McMorris thoughtfully and seamlessly transitions from a story of romance, into a detail-oriented spy novel, and keeps the reader o n the edge of their seat in anticipation of what direction the story and characters would go next. She challenges the reader to keep up with current and past storylines, all while inserting historical events, distracting the reader - they are well intertwined into the characters' lives and the book’s storylines. THE WAYS WE HIDE offers a variety of themes that would appeal to a large readership. So many beautiful moments, even in the last chapters of the book, that offer a sweet and real conclusion.”Book Club Girls of Sparta: "We enjoyed reading about a part of history we did not know of.Most of us were unaware of the Dutch involvement in the resistance or hadn't heard of this chapter of history where women recruited into the resistance worked on inventing escape aids that were hidden in things like games, and the hiding of clues and maps in ordinary objects was interesting to learn about. The resounding takeaway was the fact that so many people risked everything to help the resistance, to help other humans stay safe. Many questioned whether they would be as brave, especially being a woman. We found the most connecting part of the story was Fennas; bravery, and fearlessness even though she had deep trauma from the fire. We recommend THE WAYS WE HIDE to groups interested in historical fiction about new pieces of World War III history and strong female protagonists."Menu: Tea and speculoos cookies.

Brunch & Books Club, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Literary Fires Everywhere, Cortland Manor, New York
THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center, (St. Martin's Press, 7/22)
A romantic and humorous romance about a bodyguard, and the movie star she's hired to protect, as they work to keep things professional under crazy circumstances

Brunch & Books: “We discussed the main character’s growth. Everyone enjoyed the love story, but seeing how the character grew into herself from start to finish was what really stood out. She gained confidence and self-respect that she didn’t have at the beginning and that really resonated with members. The discussion questions prompted a good conversation that brought to mind parts of the story we might not have discussed.
I Ioved this fun and funny book with every piece of my heart. It was my first Katherine Center novel and it felt as if I was sitting with a BFF listening to her tell e this hilarious and heartwarming story. 10/10! The Author’s Note alone is worth 5 stars. Don’t skip it! Recommended for those who enjoy funny, happy love stories! We’re so appreciative of the opportunity! “

Literary Fires Everywhere: "We all enjoyed this book. I am definitely not a regular rom-com reader— I usually find myself rolling my eyes at plots that make others swoon— but I really did love this book. It’s super cute, engaging, and the characters feel real. Even the setting popped right off the page! Definitely recommend grabbing this one!

Hannah has been hired to be a bodyguard to Jack, a Hollywood burnout who would prefer not to have a bodyguard. The pair have palpable chemistry, and I quickly found myself rooting for them. We are not huge romance readers and we’re all pleasantly surprised that it was both fluffy and deep, a un reads with a bit of drama. We all loved the touches and the author’s descriptions. (The Bush steak knives)."

Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado;  and Bookish Ladies,  Coto de Caza, California
HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese (St. Martin's Press, 10/4/22)
A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Get Woke: "HESTER’s message empowered us! As Laurie Lico Albanese writes, Hester Prynne is ‘a heroic woman who defies powerful men and vengeful villagers by wearing the symbol of her shame like a badge of courage.’ Heroic women! May we be them and may we raise them!”A major symbol, incorporating the books' themes, was  Isobel's sewing skill and her ability to design and stitch beautiful patterns and scenes that revealed emotions and contained hidden messages.
Each member of the book club was asked to bring a bottle of wine (or another beverage of choice), containing a label that could reflect a 'hidden' message or theme of the story. Our discussion involved each of the members presenting her wine and describing the label, revealing aspects of the novel. These included PROPHECY WINES— The label’s images relate to the supernatural world, and scenes with shooting stars. Isobel struggles to accept her power, and the woman on the label exhibits power.*TEMPTATION AND EVE—Depicts Eve tempting Adam. Isobel’s community shuns her as a witch when she becomes pregnant. EVE elicited discussion on the Bible story – Isobel notes its message about untrustworthy women. GNARLY HEAD WINES—summarizes many characters' mental states: Hawthorne struggles with his family history of witch trials. Isobel struggles with her artistic creations and powers. *KALEIDOSCOPE:— Isabel’s gift enables her to create beautiful designs and messages on clothing and understand others’ emotions. WITCHING HOUR: summarized the novel’s mystery, fantasy, excitement, and passion.
Menu: A ‘community rice bowl’ is symbolic of the support and encouragement women shared in the novel. Member brought ingredients. Along with the theme of wine, dessert bars were labeled ‘Primitive Nuts’: many characters reflect this title!
We  also shared a representation of each member’s name created by a woman with synesthesia.”
Ranch Readers: "We were intrigued by the premise of imagining the woman who inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's protagonist, Hester Prynne, in his iconic novel, THE SCARLET LETTER, In Hester, they meet -- Nathan is a young struggling writer, who is haunted by his ancestor's treatment of the witches of Salem. and Isobel is a young wife, who recently immigrated from Scotland, and has been deserted by an opium-addicted husband who left her destitute. Isobel supports herself by creating exquisite embroidery and also through the kindness of others in town. She has synesthesia-a sensory phenomenon in which she sees letters and sounds expressed in colors. Isobel learns at an early she to hide this ability so that she would not be called a witch, but she uses her extraordinary skill to create beautiful work. We agreed that the book's language was very descriptive and enthralling and we had a long discussion about our own creative processes that have enriched our life.

We thought character of 'Hathorne' -- what the author calls Hawthorne-- could have been developed a bit further as he seemed shallow and his treatment of Isobel seemed dismissive. The social issues of the time were well highlighted by the author with a concurrent story of the Witch Trials in Salem, the plight of fleeing saves using the Underground Railroad, the mistreatment and victimization of women who had no rights, the struggles of prejudice that immigrants face in America We enjoyed the novel and feel it is going to become a best seller - it was definitely a compelling read!

Menu: Bee-shaped tea cakes and chocolate and lemon lavender scones to enjoy with tea and coffee.

Bookish Ladies: "Everyone enjoyed the book and a fresh reboot of The Scarlet Letter. The author did a wonderful retelling and we loved the characters and the story. We had a great discussion and we’re so happy to have this fun experience. We highly recommend HESTER! One member loved the book so much that she took a trip to Salem - ok it was a brilliant coincidence that she was going there!"

Menu: "Many colorful vegetables mentioned in the book."

Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas and Cork and Olive Book Club, Valrico, Florida
HALF-BLOWN ROSE by Leesa-Cross Smith (Grand Central, 2022)
A novel about a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.

Famished for Fiction: “We had a great time discussing HALF-BLOWN ROSE! This book really stretched us!" We discussed infidelity quite a bit: some members felt that the current problem —the marriage— needed to be resolved before embarking on another adventure—a relationship with Loup. We discussed that Vincent and Loup being independently wealthy contributed to their ability to just 'do as they pleased'. Vincent runs off to Paris; she and Loup travel by train to visit Theo, and family. Her family’s laid-back attitude when she shows up with Loup is a bit shocking; but, put into the context of their family, it made sense. SPOILER ALERT: We felt the ending left questions unanswered...maybe a sequel is in the plans? We would love to know if Vincent will return to Cillian, stay with Loup or go out on her own. We felt she was d searching for her freedom by leaving Kentucky and fleeing to Paris; but, in the end, becomes more tied down with the pregnancy. We recommend this book to those who enjoy Paris, romance, art, and secrets."Menu: We loved that the novel was set in Paris so we met at a French restaurant, Toulouse Cafe & Bar for quiche, Toulouse salad, lobster rolls, lobster risotto, and rose-themed drinks: French 77 and Rose all-day punch."

Cork and Olive: We looked forward to HALF-BLOWN ROSE, as we enjoyed Leesa’s novel THIS CLOSE TO OKAY and this did not disappoint! We enjoy her writing style—a phenomenal writer!” There was much discussion about whether Vincent should have led her husband on, whether it was wrong for her to be with Loup before a decision about her marriage, and whether she should have reached out to Tully and his mother. No one liked Cillian's actions and would have preferred Vincent to end her marriage if she was going to go be with someone else. We discussed Vincent's relationship with her children and the growing relationship with Tully, who we loved. There was concern that Vincent spent more time on Tully with her children, although we know that she loved them - she just didn't share as much of herself with them. We all want an epilogue!! We agreed that we needed to know what Vincent decided. Some hoped she kicked both Cillian and Loop to the curb, stayed in Paris, and raised the baby herself. Some thought she might have both... We loved that she decided to just do whatever she felt— eat pastries, sleep during the day, do whatever her spirit felt, while she proces

sed this punch in the gut to her life.
We enjoyed the references to food, art, books, and music. It was SO brilliant that Leesa created Vincent's Spotify playlists. We were delighted to see videos and references to characters on @anchoismusic. What a great way to bring the book to life! C'est bon bon bon! We recommend this novel to those who enjoy travel, art, and passion.”

Menu: "Our menu featured foods referenced —wonderfully varied and not all French! Cranberry Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Chickpea Stew, Fig Jam and Cheese with crackers, Rosemary Flatbread with Hummus and Olives, Pain au Chocolat, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and of course, Champagne!

Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Literary Lovelies of Yonkers, New York Junior League of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Finer Things Book Club of Brentwood, California
THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman (Kensington, 8/22)
The story about the Willowbrook State School, the Staten Island mental institution that shocked a nation when exposed in the 1970s as a dumping ground for unwanted children.

Sensational Seven: "We are fortunate to read this new novel from a favorite author! Once again, Ms. Wiseman has so eloquently written about another of our nation’s past social injustices. We compared our strong responses to the novel with other books with difficult topics. She has shed light on a piece of our history that is so important to learn about. Her take on Willowbrook through the eyes of sixteen-year-old, Sage Winters, was a riveting ‘page-turner.’ When Sage discovers her twin sister, Rosemary, was alive and had been institutionalized for years at Willowbrook; she courageously heads to the school to rescue her. We discussed our emotional responses in realizing that these atrocities occurred in our lifetime and in our country Our discussion centered on how the children’s parents felt after learning the truth of events at the ‘school.’ We were sad and horrified over Willowbrook, and had for the staff and media who were crucial to its closure. We felt grateful for the advancement in care and treatment of the mentally ill and incapacitated members of our society today.”

Menu: "Our take on related food/drink: White chicken chili, representing the colorless mush that residents at Willowbrook were served daily. We also drank Tequila Sunrises, a popular cocktail in 1972, using orange juice. In the novel, the nurses mixed medication in orange juice to keep the residents sedated. No meds were used by our book club- only tequila and grenadine in the OJ!”

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “We enjoy historical fiction and mystery and this was the best of both worlds!”Some members recently toured a State Hospital in Michigan and were able to compare what they learned with Willowbrook. Ellen Marie Wiseman joined us via Zoom to answer questions about how she researched the book and where the ideas came from— including the big twist. It was especially fun because she had been at the memorial at Willowbrook the day before and was able to tell us about meeting some of the doctors and attendants who helped to blow the whistle, per se. We discussed society during this time, and why it was often recommended for parents to place children in a place like Willowbrook. We discussed how parents could see their child in that state, not say anything- many of us agreed that during that time, people deferred to 'authority’ and took the doctors at their word. Today, parents question and challenge authority, especially when it comes to doctors and teachers. We agreed this was one of the saddest stories we had heard and had time wrapping our heads around the fact that while it’s a fictional story the setting, conditions, and many of the characters were real. We also didn’t see the twist coming (Ellen said that even her editor didn’t see that one!).”

Menu: "Pancakes and bacon, a build-your-own-oatmeal bar, and orange juice —spiked with champagne instead of sedatives, as in the book."

Literary Lovelies: "This was truly a fascinating book that led to a great discussion about mental health. We couldn't believe it was based on a true story! We all loved this fascinating story, and it was heartbreaking to know it was based on a real situation. The subject matter was difficult but we all enjoyed the historical fiction and somewhat true crime genre in this well-written and detailed novel. Wiseman graphically describes the school, where employees brutalize and demean their residents. It’s after a reporter sneaks into the facility— the journalist is Geraldo Rivera, who was instrumental in getting the facility rehabbed and shut down —that light is shed on these inhumane conditions. We discussed the women brought to this facility, mental health, and the management of those needing special care. It was terrible that couldn’t speak up for themselves, and that no one ever checked on them This dark and gritty story will stay with us for a long time—it was so interesting and led to a fabulous discussion. This is my first time reading this author and I will be looking for more of her books."⁣

Elizabeth's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas; Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey; North Wales Area Public Library; Pennsylvania
WHEN WE LET GO  by Rochelle Weinstein

A novel about mothers and daughters, loss and acceptance, the lessons that come from heartbreak, and the healing it takes to embrace the joy of a second chance.Elizabeth’s Book Chat: "A wonderful match We had a very lively discussion with author Rochelle Weinstein and the book was so well received. Everyone loved it! There were different elements of the story that each of us could relate to which made it even more interesting. The author's style of writing is genuine and heartfelt. As we read the words on the page, we also were able to actually feel the emotions. What was very interesting was when members asked Rochelle where the idea for the tree came from. The response kept everyone chatting for a while. Great interaction!”
Menu: Charcuterie board, lemon cake, and wine

Book Club Girls Sparta: “A new author to us, and this moving story was enjoyed by all. Many could relate to the protagonist's profound level of loss and trauma and how one moment in her young life altered her future relationships with those closest to her. Trauma, grief, mother-daughter, sister, family, forgiveness, strength, and courage were all key factors that resonated with our readers. We discussed the importance of self-care and women surrounding themselves with people they can trust and open up to, and give themselves permission to move on and heal. We enjoyed the mother/ daughter theme. Read this moving novel if you are looking for a story of mothers, daughters, first love, second chances, and the powerful bond of sisters. “

 

Menu: "Wine and chocolate for self-care, a summer picnic with farm-to-table foods, lemonade, tea, and homemade fruit pies, based on Avery's garden and farm."
North Wales Area Library Book Club: “A big THANK YOU! This book was excellent! The believable characters drew readers in, and the settings were easy to picture. Several interesting relationships and ways of dealing with loss were explored. It was a well-built novel with interesting situations about dealing with grief, family relationships, and trust."

Over-Readers Anonymous of Cumming, Georgia, Reckless Readers of Eastford, Connecticut, Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, Wine Club with a Book Problem, Woodstock, Georgia
OVERKILL by Sandra Brown (Grand Central, 8/22)
A crime thriller in which a conflict of conscience between a former football star and an ambitious state prosecutor swiftly intensifies into a fight for their lives.

Reckless Readers: "OVERKILL satisfied the thriller need, romance desire, and contemplative fiction we all love. It was an excellent book club book that sparked much conversation: the question of whether or not we would want to stay alive, or if we could actually pull the plug ourselves on a loved one, after being in a coma with no brain activity. The characters had moral and religious struggles with this choice, and we empathized with them. We loved the spicy romance in the book —with much discussion about how much more of it everyone wanted—as well as the direction of the story. Eban’s character sent us on another heated conversation about entitlement and the evils that wealth can add to an already evil person’s being. Sandra Brown did an excellent job of making us hate him, and kept us page-turning hoping for a better outcome. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy a little romance in their thriller, and heavy discussion points."

Menu: "Our drink—the Blue Overkill (vodka blue Curacao, and pineapple juice) was tasty, like Zach, and packed a punch like Kate. Paired with charcuterie."

Over-Readers Anonymous: “We recommend OVERKILL for those who enjoy crime fiction, suspense thrillers, and contemporary issues with a little romance thrown in! Our book club has enjoyed several Sandra Brown novels, they're entertaining and also touch on issues that lead to a deeper discussion. We discussed the ethical dilemma at the foundation of OVERKILL and delved into medical ethics, end-of-life planning, the characters, the plot, the judicial system, and the celebrity spotlight. As we all have roots in the south, we liked the Atlanta, New Orleans, and North Carolina settings. OVERKILL was action-packed and easy-to-read."

Menu: “As a BBQ menu was suggested by the author, met at a local restaurant for pulled pork!." (see Sandra Brown's recipe)

Book Club Girls: "An enjoyable read with developed characters an incredible, setting, and suspense well paced throughout the book.  We discussed what we would do if faced with the same situation as Zach even though none of our members have had to face this situation. What many of us thought should have been a clear-cut choice, as we wove through the narrative we came to understand that there were so many layers to this that came into play that it wasn't as simple as we believed in the beginning. The most hated character was the villain Eban and although he is fictional, we agreed there are real people in the world like him. When you are so wealthy that you can make so many disastrous choices as a human with no consequences was highlighted. What would have happened to someone else who wasn't as wealthy? Also, we all agreed that no one really thought about Rebecca, until they were forced to, which led us to agree it was unacceptable for her to continue to be victimized in a way for so very long. But, if she was allowed to let go in the beginning, there wouldn't be as much of a plot line for the book. Loved the premise of the story, it gave lots of topics for discussion.

Menu: "We recommend bbq, pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, and any tailgating type of foods that would be a nod to North Carolina and football."

Wine Club with a Book Problem: "OVERKILL is a good thought-provoking story. The topic of life support and having your affairs in order gave us a good discussion, and we enjoyed the setting of Atlanta since we live in the area. Former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Zach Bridger has MPA for his ex-wife, Rebecca, who has been placed on life support after a violent assault. Zach has kept Rebecca on life support for 4 years to honor her parent's wishes. The attacker, Eban, gets an early release from prison and Kate Lennon, a brilliant state prosecutor, is determined to put him back behind bars. If Rebecca were to die, Eban could be retried on a new charge: murder. Zach is asked to make an impossible choice: keep her on life support or take her off and put Eban back in prison. We discussed that no one really thought about Rebecca. Zach was concerned about how he would be portrayed by the media, her father keeping her alive to punish Zach, and Eban boasting how his father's money got him out of prison early and now he can bet back to partying. It was unacceptable to keep Rebecca on life-support for so long.

Menu: "There are many football analogies and football references throughout the book. We put together a Tailgate Football Menu: Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Balsamic Fig Infused Burger Bites, Wings, Homemade Salsa & Chips plus Guacamole, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Pizza Pepper Poppers."

Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; CT Lit, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Kings Chapel Book Club  Arrington, Tennessee,
ALL MY RAGE by Sabaa Tahir (Penguin Teen, 3/22)

A contemporary novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents.

Reading Between the Wines: "We all enjoyed the book and thought the author did a wonderful job of creating flawed and 'real' characters that we grew to care about."This was a great match for our club. Our discussion included immigrants' struggles to preserve their culture while trying to achieve the American Dream, the nature of generational trauma, the opioid crisis, and the role of faith in people's lives- so many things to discuss! We became invested in the characters of Noor and Sal and the traumatic events that they and their families, experienced impacted us, and provided a lot of jumping-off points for discussion. Watching their growth throughout the novel gave it a hopeful ending. We loved this book and were fully invested in these characters, and reading it was a very emotional journey. Recommended to clubs that enjoy books discussing contemporary themes, strong characters, and emotional reads.

Menu: We met at a local Indian/Pakistani restaurant to enjoy food discussed and eaten in the novel: chai tea, poori, halwa, Chicken Kashmiri, and paratha, among other dishes!

Page Ladies: “We went in expecting a contemporary story about friendship and forgiveness but what we got was so much more. Thank you, Sabaa Tahir, for sharing this devastating but absolutely beautiful story with us! This is a powerful story that affected each of us differently. It's one that will stay with us for a long time. Until The Fight Salahudin and Noor were more than friends; they were family. Now, Sal is struggling with keeping his family's motel afloat as his mother's health fails and his father loses himself to alcoholism. Meanwhile, Noor is working at her uncle's liquor store and hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him and Juniper forever. Sal and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst. This is an emotional and moving story about friendship, forgiveness, and heartache; it’s like taking a deep dive into a pool full of emotions. Grief, betrayal and forgiveness, loss, rage— you will feel every single one and more in this book. No one from our book club was able to finish this book with dry eyes. There are so many topics that were brought up and all were not easy to discuss: death, drugs, prejudice, and physical abuse. The writing is absolutely wonderful—Sabaa Tahir is a fabulous storyteller. She has a way with words that touches each of her readers.“

Get Woke Book Club “Members arrived with books displaying colorful post-it tabs, which visually reflected the common greeting, 'there is so much to think about in this novel!A group of mothers and grandmothers very much enjoyed the novel by a young adult author and its detailed and realistic picture of the struggles that immigrants face in relocating to the United States and of the family traditions and secrets that follow the immigrants to their new home. The culture and religious traditions of Pakistan were vividly described in an engaging storyline and beautiful prose. The main plot follows the lives of two Pakistani teens, who are struggling with school, personal tragedies, and love. They are surrounded by other well-drawn characters who add depth to the story. We discussed the many plot lines and themes: diversity, forgiveness, hope, family relationships, communication, secrecy, and loss. Tahir fills the novel with music, probably an excellent technique for adolescent readers—they can easily relate to the messages and emotions through familiar songs.  Noor uses songs and their lyrics to help cope with the conflicts in her life. 

Members shared selfies with short reflections:  “Music plays a role in helping us deal with life’s adversities.*  When is a relationship worth salvaging?  *Fortunately forgiveness does not have an expiration date. It waits and always hopes to be the last word. *Peeling through the complicated layers of life we can see, appreciate and begin to understand one another. * One of my favorite quotes ‘Great passions grow into monsters in the dark of the mind; but if you share them with loving friends they remain human, they can be endured.’ * Tahir effectively introduces sections with lines from  Elizabeth Bishop's poem, “One Art.  Many characters ‘lost’ things: family, money, businesses, dignity. A lesson we all may need is that losing isn’t always bad.: 'the art of losing’s not too hard to master’ *While keeping a secret is meant to protect someone at some point, keeping that secret might be doing more harm.”

CT Lit Book Club: "We’ve been exploring new genres, and we enjoyed ALL MY RAGE, a heartbreaking story that touches on a lot of sensitive topics which gave us plenty to discuss.ALL MY RAGE introduced us to Pakistani culture. This young adult story follows two Pakistani teens growing up in a small town in California and the grim realities of their American dream. Even through difficult times their cultural norms held them together as a family, even if not by blood, the young adult characters are each facing their own struggles—the death of a loved one, racism, alcoholism, drugs, abuse— they are navigating grief, failure, and forgiveness, and must ultimately lean on one another to make sense of the chaos they are facing. It was shocking to imagine our younger selves in situations like these and we spent time reflecting on how the kids navigated various situations. One that stood out is how Salahudin and Noor dealt with the drug bust, and how their relationship persevered. We also discussed how Salahudin came to terms with his abuse. We recommend ALL MY RAGE for clubs learning about other cultures, family drama, and historical fiction."

Kings Chapel: “Thank you for the chance to read this insightful novel. We had a fabulous discussion and I think it was good to read outside our usual genres. This is a heart-wrenching story about two teens from Pakistani families living in Juniper, California, dealing with tough circumstances, basically all by themselves. We don’t read much YA, It was out of the comfort zone for most of the ladies. but the tough topics represented in this story, such as grief, alcoholism, physical abuse, and racism, were easier to handle in the Young Adult format. Understanding why the characters made the choices they did was something we discussed quite a bit. As teens, they made decisions that were wrong but for the right reasons and it was interesting to get in the minds of these teens and try to understand why. As parents, it was hard to read at times, feeling so sad for these kids who have had such a hard life. But seeing them grow and learn from mistakes and stand up for others, gave the book a nice redemption quality in the end. Recommended for groups that enjoy YA coming of age and social justice." 



Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut, Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
Lit Ladies Read, Melbourne, Florida; Thrillers by The Book / Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
Thrillers by The Book / Costa Mesa, California, CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut recommend:
THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur 7/22)
Paris Peralta is suspected of killing her celebrity husband, and her long-hidden past now threatens to destroy her future.

Reckless Readers: An excellent match! Everyone was excited to talk about the twists. We had much to discuss with THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK. Members were messaging before we met, needing to talk about the book as they were finishing it. It was like a month-long meeting, behind the scenes! Usually, if continuous discussion is prompted, the book was a hit. To say the book was twisty is an understatement. This book was twisty than a country back road! A few of us seasoned readers predicted the big twists, but most of us were surprised and shocked. Together, we all needed to unload about the horrendous mothering and terrible situations that Joey was put in throughout her childhood. All of the women in our group are mothers, which makes the book hit us so much harder. But the book wasn’t just about sexual abuse and trauma. There is a high-profile murder that could potentially unearth secrets that need to be kept hidden. The conversation got animated when we discussed Joelle's charge with murder, and there was much discussion about the relationship between Ruby and Joey. As mothers, we found it hard to imagine how Ruby could treat Joey the way she did and put her in such horrible situations. It was heartbreaking and disturbing ."

Chilly Thrillies: “Thank you for giving our group the gift of a 5-star read, a perfect match! We were engaged from start to finish and loved how much there was to discuss. It had the thrills of a book with great character development and storyline. We discussed narcissism and how it affects relationships, specifically parent-child, how the way you are raised affects your instincts and perspective of others, fight or flight and how we would react in certain scenarios in the book, sexual abuse, and its long-term effects, age gap relationships and how people can be evil, but the 'lesser evil.’ We debated which storyline in the dual timeline was more action-packed—something hard to accomplish. Normally, we’re more interested in one storyline, We each were able to predict one of the twists, but we're stumped on the others and loved that there was more than one twist revealed. I was so impressed, I read Hillier’s JAR OF HEARTS. Recommended for those who enjoy a page-turning thriller with complex characters that you root for."

Menu: We made a Filipino Chicken Adobo recipe similar to what Paris makes towards the end of the book (she used pork instead of chicken). We were inspired by her description of how learning to cook was so special when she was going through such a dark time.

Lit Ladies Read: “We enjoyed this twisty, thriller/mystery. and had a very lively discussion! We had so much to discuss. We enjoyed the storytelling, shifting between past and present. and different points of view. This really helped to fully develop the characters. Although some predicted twists, we were still engrossed in the story and wanted to see how things played out.
“Our discussion centered around the characters and their relationships. One of our favorites was that between Jimmy and Paris and the highlight of our discussion was the relationship between Paris/Joey and Ruby. We disagreed about how adult Paris should have handled Ruby and decided that we had to agree to disagree about our feelings towards Paris, but we all agreed that this book was a hit for our group. The mystery is multi-layered, with deep characters. Many members put other books by this author on their ‘to be read’ list."

Thrillers by the Book Club, DFW: "This was our best GalleyMatch, perfect for our group and for book clubs that like dark and twisted mysteries“We all loved how the book started with a very intriguing and captivating scene Joey’s background was very interesting and her relationship with her mother was so toxic. There are a few mysteries in the story. Besides trying to find out if Paris murdered her husband, we’re also trying to work out Paris’ past, how did she go from living with an abusive unstable mother, who is now in prison, to living a wealthy life married to a famous celebrity? I enjoyed Paris’ past the most I loved the intensity in the chapters that focused on Paris’ childhood and upbringing. Ruby, her mother, was such an intriguing and complex character—a terrible mother, self-centered and irresponsible, which caused Paris a lot of pain and uncertainty. While a few members predicted the twist, it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of this dark and suspenseful story.”

Thrillers by The Book, Costa Mesa: “This was an excellent pick for our club! The majority liked or loved this one! Some said it was one of their favorite picks of the year. Many of the members enjoyed the mystery of learning about the murderer in the end, and the alternating timelines of the female main character. There were a variety of opinions about who committed the crime.”

CT Lit Book Club: "This was the perfect match for us! We have been craving a thriller and this was on all of our anticipated release lists. We all enjoyed the book, and were so excited to have a chance to preview it! We discussed how jam-packed this book was with plot points. There was much to hold your attention and give you room to try and predict what would happen. We loved how creative Hillier is— there is one scene in specific that was so creative and will leave us remembering the book forever! (hint hint, ice skates). Half of us had read another book by Hillier, and we all agreed that we want to read more Hiller titles."


The Ladies of Autumnwood, Grand Isle, New York, Mom and I Book Club of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, r
ecommend:

THE MATCHMAKER'S GIFT BY Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin's Press, 9/20/22)
 An intergenerational story about two women—a grandmother and granddaughter—who share the same incredible gift: the ability to identify soulmates

The Ladies of Autumnwood: We loved THE MATCHMAKER’S GIFT! Reading about Raskin’s pickles and the knish shops brought back wonderful memories of shopping at a pickle store in lower Manhattan barrels with barrels on the sidewalk and enjoying a great knish. These memories, among other topics, helped to round out our animated discussion last night. Members didn’t know much about ‘yentas’ or matchmakers and their role in creating Jewish courtship relations. We enjoyed learning about the bravery of the young girl, who beyond the fact that she was Jewish opened our eyes to the challenges of women, not unlike what some have to endure to break that glass ceiling today."
Menu: “We enjoyed Challah and red wine, and took home jars of pickles that I designed with a Raskin’s label.”

My Mom and I: “This pick was perfection. Not only did it match our love of magical realism but we agreed it’s the best book we’ve read this year. You found the perfect book for us!”
“We discussed magic, love, strong women, lovable characters, and the absolute beauty of the writing. We recommend this book to those who enjoy magical realism, foodie fiction, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. The author wrote a book that we treasure and we’re raving about it to everyone. This is a book that you feel like hugging at the end. We absolutely loved it. It’s a gem! “

Menu: "A smorgasbord! We had a blast capturing foods mentioned in the book lox and capers, cornichons— we decorated pickle jars with ‘The Pickle King’, as in the book. We had magical color-changing butterfly tea, as we wanted some magic to go with the story, and chocolate babka for dessert, like our beloved characters baked.

St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri;  Mom and I Book Club, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania;  Pittsford Moms Book Club, Pittsford, New York, and Port Wine and Book Society Readers, Port Washington, Wisconsin recommend:
OTHER BIRDS by Sarah Addison Allen (St Martins, Press, 8/30/22)
A novel about a young woman who claims her deceased mother's apartment in an island town, where she meets she meets quirky and secretive neighbors.

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: "A great match! We felt like this was the perfect mix of themes, giving us questions and a variety of topics to discuss. Having an arc made us feel like ‘VIPs’ to the publishing process. This novel was cozy, nostalgic, and heartfelt! Allen’s characters help redefine the word ‘family’ in the most beautiful way. We discussed the definition of home and chosen family, food as a love language —and inspiration for potlucks for book club!! The setting—so realistic and magical, the imagery of the birds and the meaning. OTHER BIRDS takes you on a magical journey of youth, delicately balancing both beauty and sadness. We recommend this book to clubs who are fans of magical realism. It was fuzzy, cozy --the perfect happy read."

Menu: "We made amazing foods to match the book: cornmeal air-fried tomatoes, potato chips on Hawaiian rolls, Mac & cheese, cornbread, Palomas, and marshmallow popcorn."

My Mom and I: "Thank you for a rare opportunity to preview our favorite author’s new book! Sarah Addison Allen's first novel GARDEN SPELLS introduced us to our favorite genre, magical realism. I saved the book for the perfect moment and then tore into it. After waiting eight years for her new book I knew I’d read it too quickly and, that’s what happened We are Italian and loved the ‘found family’ theme and 'food is love' philosophy running through the novel. We enjoyed the foodie talk, animals, ghosts, and magical elements. All characters and storylines were interesting and mysterious; sometimes beautiful, but sometimes ugly but always interesting. Several big reveals had us slack-jawed!

While OTHER BIRDS is a little sadder and darker than her previous works, the magic and the love and the beauty left the reader with a love of the characters and a belief that as the characters live beyond 'the end' of the book all turned out well for them. And you will want that because you will be left loving nearly everything about OTHER BIRDS! We recommend this to those who like magical realism and foodie fiction."

Menu: "Cornmeal marshmallow dishes based on a character: Fluffernutters (marshmallow whip and peanut butter sandwiches), tamale pie stuffed peppers, cornmeal sugar cookies, and marshmallow-flavored lip balm as a keepsake."

Pittsford Moms: "We had so much fun with OTHER BIRDS! We loved this found family story and all the special characters! The novel was a good fit for our club. We try to switch up genres/authors and most members like books with some magic realism elements. We felt it was an easy read and generally flew through the book - Thanks! kept our attention. We loved the story of found family, the characters, and their backgrounds. Books with paranormal/magic realism can be hit or miss for most members but they worked well with this story and added background and historical context for many of the characters. We had a great discussion about the twists and the characters' diverse backgrounds— we would have liked a little more depth to some characters that had very traumatic backgrounds. We recommend OTHER BIRDS to groups that enjoy a touch of magic realism and found family stories!”

Menu: "S’mores bars— the story takes place on Marsh Island and all restaurants in town have something marshmallow on their menu.” 

Port Wine and Book Society: "A great match for our club! We recommend this enchanting story written from the heart, with interesting characters and subplots.”Zoey was such a delightful, open and honest young character— we all adored her. We liked how the story unfolded by hearing different characters' viewpoints in each chapter. The Dellawisps added fun and interest, some of us thought they may have stolen Charlotte's money.  We loved the descriptions of Mallow Island - we live in a small tourist town in Wisconsin and really identified with that. The highlighted passages in Lizbeth’s copy of Sweet Mallow were ironic because she didn't live her life according to any of them - she was so stuck in the past it literally killed her. We enjoyed a unique story, quirky characters, and the theme of food as friendship/love."

Menu: “The detail around food was great! We  made several dishes with corn or cornmeal to celebrate it: Polenta and shrimp, fresh corn salad, corn dip and corn chips, and popcorn.”

CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; KU Endowment, Lawrence, Kansas; and Girls Clubhouse, Auburn, California recommend
MIRROR GIRLS by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 2/22)
A gothic horror novel about twin sisters separated across the color line after the murder of their parents (YA historical fiction/  magical realism/fantasy).

CT Lit: “MIRROR GIRLS was a great discussion starter and the perfect book to read with a group. It took us out of our comfort zone and was eye-opening, a reminder that segregation is not so far in the past. We are transported to the South—and blatant racism —which as a group of white women living in Connecticut, we don't have experience with. We follow twin sisters Magnolia and Charlie, separated at birth—one raised as Black in New York City and one raised as white-passing in the Deep South— who learn the secret everyone has kept from them. The novel portrayed how indoctrinated people were, and in some cases ready to push racism aside when it would benefit them. We discussed how Charlie's view on life differs after growing up in the more liberal Harlem and compared it to growing up in Connecticut and traveling in different areas in the United States. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy Brit Bennett's THE VANISHING HALF.”

Page Ladies: "We all enjoyed this historical fiction with a paranormal twist that is both heartbreaking and beautiful. The book offered many different topics, generating a nice discussion: the time period, the girls as individuals, their different upbringings and when they came together, the decision to separate them and not tell them about each other, and much more! A wonderful story about twin girls Charlie and Magnolia who were separated after their parents died for love across the color line and have no idea the other exists. Magnolia. raised in Georgia, is the white heiress to a cotton plantation. Charlie, raised in Harlem with her Nana, is a young Black organizer. When Charlie's grandmother falls ill, they return to Georgia. When the girls do meet Magnolia discovers her reflection has disappeared. They couldn’t be more different, but they will need each other to put the hauntings of the past to rest, break the mirrors’ deadly curse, and discover the meaning of sisterhood in a racially divided land. Seeing the girls come together to create that sisterly bond was wonderful, as is the writing, and pacing. The curse and the ghosts added an interesting twist to the story.”

Girls Clubhouse: "We all enjoyed MIRROR GIRLS and we tried to capture the supernatural aspect of the book with mirror images” Charlie and Magnolia both born in the South but separated at birth live separate lives but face the double threat of racism and ghosts. We discussed how ‘Colored Town ‘is equally foreign to both girls, despite being born there; contrasting with where they were each raised. Magnolia knows the rules of the general area, while Charlie knows how things are done —how stories are told, some traditions. The concept of the veil as the place between this world and the afterlife was used by the author also as the place between the white world and the colored world, which made this gothic story much more intriguing than if it had been singularly used. This forces both girls to examine who they are and what they are willing to live with. Members enjoy supernatural books, and the idea of ghosts to help guide the characters was appealing. We found it to be a ‘light’ supernatural read. We recommend to clubs who enjoy gothic young adult novels."

KU Endowment: "Everyone loved the book. Some members were pleasantly surprised by the way supernatural elements were combined with social commentary and realistic events. The author was able to shine a light on the atrocities of slavery and segregation without being heavy-handed and shows us a playbook for fighting back through the strong and determined sisters, Charlie and Magnolia. The past can haunt us but that doesn't mean it has to control us, and love will conquer hate. One member discussed the book with her 86-year-old mother, who shared memories of her experiences during segregation. We all felt hopeful and inspired by the book and loved the characters. We talked about what it would be like not to know your origins and what would inspire someone to fight against things they know are wrong when it could cost them everything. We recommend to those that enjoy strong characters, historical fiction, and being inspired."

The Revivals Book Club The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas; Zoom-Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma
THE CICADA TREE by Robert Gwaltney, Jr.
A novel about an 11-year-old, whisky-drinking, piano prodigy who encounters a wealthy family of supernatural beauty.

The Revivals: “Have we missed out on a genre of remarkable books or were we gifted a gem in a genre we might not have read? The debut novel THE CICADA TREE soared to the top of the 2022 best reads. We dare you not to highlight dozens of richly written sentences; our galleys are filled with colorful post-it notes. The discussion questions gave deeper insight into the themes and allegories we hadn’t considered. We agreed that the book fit into genres of southern gothic, magical realism, and coming-of-age. We explored biblical allegories: good and evil, Jesus, John the Baptist, Cain and Abel, plague, water, and fire. Once every 13 years, the cicadas emerge in tremendous numbers to mate and disrupt human life and comfort; some believe they hold our secrets. Gwaltney has a gift for bringing all together in an unforgettable book appealing to multiple genres and readers. We discussed how music and the song of the Cicadas featured prominently, and the writing allowed us to hear the music as the book’s climax approached. There are themes of coming-of-age, transformation, and rebirth. Gwaltney poetically foreshadows the storyline early as the story’s protagonist, a typical tween experiencing growing pains, insecurity, and self-recrimination sheds her childhood as a cicada does. Triumphing over evil, the novel reaches an angelic and lyrical end. There are as many ways to love this book as there are to interpret it–we dare you to read it! We all loved this novel.”

Menu: Iced Tea, Autumn Apple & Feta Salad, Watermelon Salad, Feta, Mint; Skillet Cheddar Cornbread, Southern Pecan Praline Cookies, Coffee on a garden patio.

Zoom-Chilly Thrillies: We had a great time reading and discussing THE CICADA TREE, a wonderful match that pushed us out of our comfort zone, with its unique blend of genres— historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. This was a unique story! We agreed it was unpredictable and gave much to discuss. Some words members shared to describe the writing style and story were: Gothic, descriptive, imaginative, twisted, mystical, humorous, innocent, and unpredictable! We were excited about the discussion and most finished it quickly-after the halfway point, unable to put it down.

"We discussed symbolism, class differences, racism, religion, southern culture, character motivations, and family relationships. and how the main character was looking up to a family she aspired to. We discussed our childhood oddities, raised by the mention of the character's liking the feel of pain. We enjoyed that it was told through a child's lens, while dark but the child's perspective ensured curiosity and humor even when horrifying things are happeningThe writing is creative and descriptive and made us think about things such as how you hear music in a new light. The ending was haunting and beautiful and there were many shocked reactions!

"We also discussed the movies or books we thought possibly influenced the author, including REBECCA, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and MEAN GIRLS., We are eager to read Gwaltney's next novel!"

Menu: “Iced tea was sipped!"

Famished for Fiction: “A wonderful opportunity to read a complex story with a bit of mystery and unexpected twists and turns. Our group is diverse, and open to new and different genres, and appreciated the opportunity to discover this book. We discussed the focus of music and its impact on the progression of the story. Music is a major theme throughout the piece, whether it is the music Mr. Mayfield had composed for his wife or the musical virtuosity of the Mayfield children. We explored the cicada's presence: cicadas are seasonal and burrow in the ground, so they are equivalent to all of the secrets that are buzzing around the town of Providence, connecting the Mayfields to Etta Mae and Analeise, and the link between their molting and the growing pains the main characters are experiencing.”

Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Books and Brew, Allendale, Michigan;  Carrollton Book Buddies, Carrollton, Texas;
BluStocking Literacy Society, West Allis, Wisconsin

THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET by Sara Ackerman (Mira, 8/22)
A brilliant female code breaker and a pilot on a top-secret mission come together in this dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.

Ranch Readers: Our book club enjoyed this book as we read a non-fiction WWII book about codebreakers and many have traveled to Hawaii so both the theme and setting are familiar. The storyline was realistic and we enjoyed the dual timelines with relevance at the end of the book when the characters are planting a memorial garden on the plantation. We discussed our mother's vital roles during the war, such as working in a war plant, how women were disregarded and treated as second-class citizens, and the situations where the same treatment happens today.We discussed our Hawaiian travels: topography, lava fields, ocean conditions, and coffee plantations. Those that have visited the Mauna Kea Hotel described it. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy historical fiction and WWII stories.”

Menu: “Banana chocolate chip cake/ banana pudding topping, tropical fruit salad, Huli-huli Chicken.”

BluStocking Literacy Society: “
A perfect match! We enjoy historical fiction/mystery that pulls us in and we all anticipated the discussion. We discussed the timeline and connections between the two eras, and the uncertainty that women codebreakers felt reflected by Lu as she struggles to establish herself as a journalist. Isabel walked a line between expressing her intelligence and thoughts and second-guessing herself and stepping back. It was fascinating to consider women in a secret intelligence role and the obstacles they had to overcome.”
Menu: "
Wacky Cake, a classic chocolate cake born of necessity for WWII rationing.”

Carrollton Book Buddies: “A brilliant female codebreaker. An ‘unbreakable’ Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. My book club loved THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET! The dual timeline novel is set in Hawaii. We enjoyed discussing the amazing roles women played in World War ll. While most of us decided we'd have been secretaries, one member thought the radar plotter sounded like a fit. We appreciated that there were those that worked as mechanics, pilots ferrying planes, medics, and of course, the codebreakers! The Dungeon where the codebreakers worked and the men in charge were a hot topic-the smoke, the drinking, the snobbery, all appalling. Just the thought of approaching the stairs and entering drew lots of remarks! We read the author's explanation of the difference between codes and ciphers and concluded the codebreakers were brilliant! We discussed survivor's guilt, the way Germans, Italians, and the Japanese were treated here in the states, and men in power and misuse of that power. We appreciated the way the threads were all tied up by the ending, though a surprise. The stunning descriptions of the Mauna Kea Hotel and the surroundings have us all wishing for a trip to Hawaii. We appreciated the brilliant, unique roles of women in war."

Menu: "We met at tropical Tommy Bahamas restaurant for a chopped salad with shrimp, coconut shrimp, and Mahi Mahi Tacos. Tropical beverages included. Cloud Coconut Martinis and Jalapeno Margaritas."

Books and Brew: "The story takes place in 1943 and 1965. It's 1943, and Isabel Cooper, who has lost her older brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor, is working as a code breaker, solving Japanese naval codes. Isabel seizes an opportunity to solve codes in Hawaii to locate her brother’s friends and learn about his life. In Hawaii, she stumbles into a life-changing mystery. In 1965, aspiring journalist Lu Freitas is traveling to the Mauna Kea Hotel for its grand opening, when she befriends a famous woman. When her new friend disappears, Lu investigates and soon uncovers a missing link to the past. We discussed women in history, World War II, the relationship between the main character to her friend and her brother's friends, her internal struggle, and women's roles during the war. I was so grateful to have received this book early for my book club! I was so immersed in the characters and their story, I couldn't put it down! Five stars!"

Reading is My Cardio, Smithfield, Rhode Island;  Bookish Ladies, Coto De Caza, California; Next Chapter, Leesburg, Virginia
SIX DAYS IN ROME by Francesca Giacco (Grand Central, 5/22)
A young artist travels to Rome to heal a broken heart, where she confronts loneliness and intimacy, rage and desire in this debut novel.

Reading is My Cardio: "We adored this lyrical and atmospheric debut! It was refreshing to read a book with realistically flawed characters and where not everything gets tied up in a perfect bow. This character-driven story explores relationships in so many forms - family, romantic, and with one's self - and the writing is just beautiful. Truly a perfect book for summer, transporting us to Rome for a captivating six days. We discussed how this isn't a book with a lot of plot and yet it kept us interested throughout. We loved the writing and many of us highlighted passages that we shared and discussed, and the group also touched on whether we'd be able to travel solo as the main character did. Another subject that came up was how the narrative is almost stream of consciousness which some of our group enjoyed more than others. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy being transported to another place and appreciate character-driven books about self-discovery."

Menu: "Italian-themed cocktail party featuring charcuterie, Aperol Spritzes, and a gelato bar for dessert."

Bookish Ladies: "SIX DAYS IN ROME was beautifully written We enjoyed the food and descriptions around Rome! We loved how the book was written in terms of description and character development. It was a lighter, summer read. We felt l the character had a lot to work out but she never quite figured out what it was so there were a lot of questions left up for interpretation."

Menu: Italian rosé, homemade flatbreads with Italian pesto, mozzarella, fresh basil, aged balsamic, and roasted tomatoes.

Next Chapter: “Everyone agreed that Francesca Giacco's writing was beautiful,—and it was fun to read her book looking for food and drink that members can make and enjoy at book club! Emilia heads off on a six-day trip to Rome—it was supposed to be a romantic trip with her then-boyfriend Michael. but that’s not possible as he is married! With six days in Rome, Emilia will have time to reflect on why it wouldn’t work, why she deserves better, and time to enjoy the food and wine on her trip. We discussed what we thought happened to Michael: we had differing opinions to whether he had died or was with someone else or married. During her trip, she reflects on her relationship with her father and brother, and has lots of yummy food and drink throughout. We were happy that she met someone new and Emilia Is able to focus on herself and her art. Her six days in Rome weren’t what she had planned when she booked the trip, but sometimes better things come out of bad situations. Ah, the magic of Italy! One of our members took her book to Rome and shared photos."

Menu: “We enjoyed Aperol Spritz cocktails, a charcuterie board, tiramisu, and wine-soaked grapes”.

Peoria Book Rack, Illinois, Thrillers by the Book Orange County, California, Novels N Latte, Hudson Valley, New York
THE GOOD SISTER by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 2021)
A psychological thriller about the lies that bind two sisters.

Peoria Book Rack: “We agreed it was fast-paced and a quick read. The story keeps you guessing as you try to figure out the family dynamic between sisters Rose and Fern. the journals, their relationship with the mom, the twists! We also discussed Hepworth's versatility as an author. She has a solid list of backlist books that many of us are excited to check out! We recommend for book clubs that enjoy family thrillers.”

Thrillers by the Book: “Everyone loves Sally Hepworth, and this was a favorite! A likable main character and a fun story. We talked about representation in books, and the importance of character-driven books, and how her writing style is relatable and easy to read."

Novels N Latte: “Perfect for our club. We love good twisted family dynamics, and this sister story gave us a lot to discuss, including Fern's autism spectrum and which was actually the good sister.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, East Lawrence High School Book Club of Trinity, Alabama, Reckless Readers of  Eastford, Connecticut, and North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania
DARK AND SHALLOW LIES by Ginny Myers Sain (Penguin Teen, 2021)

A supernatural thriller about a teen girl who disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp.

Reckless Readers: The story hooked the teens— they enjoyed the love story and the witchy aspect, and our adult readers also loved the book. We included teen daughters who wanted to join, and teachers and librarians in the group who wanted to preview it before ordering for their locations. A few of them have not read YA books, so it was a nice and unexpected change for them. We liked the Southern setting, and how the author submerged us in Bayou. From gigantic gators ( Willie Nelson) to psychic abilities, shapeshifter, and Aurora readers, this book is a full experience. The end was shocking and fit the story. We recommend this book for those that enjoy a hint of magic within a southern setting.

Menu: "Southern delights mentioned in the book: Honey’s Pralines, Willie Nelson’s Gator Piss cocktail—with Midori, lime juice, rum, sweet & sour mix, and seltzer—Cajun wings and shrimp dip."

North Wales Area Library: “Our group had one of the best discussions we can remember!”This was an excellent selection and discussion. The book brought the Louisiana bayou setting to life. One member was raised in the area and she especially thought the setting description was spot on. The group wondered why the word ‘shallow’ was included in the title: The lies did not seem shallow. We debated the killer, books were pulled out and theories shared. The hurricane preparation made for interesting reading. We discussed why an outside investigation might not have happened. All said they would read another Sain book and looked forward to the next book in the series. We hope to have our adult group discuss DARK AND SHALLOW LIES with our teen book club! Our group rates books with 1-5 stars. The lowest rating in the group was 4.5! We recommend this book to clubs who enjoy reading outside of the box.”

ELHS Book Club: “Thank you for providing yet another wonderful book for our students! We discussed the setting bayous, swamps, cypress trees, alligators, shrimp boats and houses on stilts. The author did an excellent job painting a picture for the reader. We also discussed mental illness which is woven into the plot through a couple of characters via subtle behaviors and downright craziness.

Menu: jambalaya, gumbo, and pistolette rolls.

Book Club Girls: “Don't be turned away by the YA label, this book is for all ages. It was completely off our radar as far as genre, and many readers gave it five stars, and couldn't believe it was a debut novel. One member stayed up until 5 am to finish— she just had to know the end! The writing was fantastic. We discussed the book is marketed as a YA title, however, NONE of us are near that demographic We felt the characters could be aged up to the 30s and 40' and still make sense—they were just as vital to the storyline as the plot. We felt the novel touched on mystery and supernatural themes but also the deep-rooted impact of emotional trauma that shapes us. We discussed how keeping secrets buried for so many years by everyone caused so much heartache and pain. If truths were told from the start, what would the lives of the children have been like?? A great evening with lots of thoughtful discussions and fun had by all."

Menu: Hurricane Punch, crawfish, gator bites, cajun fried catfish, and cornbread.

Lit Ladies Read Book Club of Melbourne, Florida and Thrillers by the Book of Costa Mesa, California
THE YOUNGER WIFE by Sally Hepworth, (St. Martins Press, 4/22)
A new novel of domestic suspense that delves into a tangled web of family secrets, and lies.

Lit Ladies Read: "We loved this book and had a great discussion, which centered on the theme of perceived reality. We had a great debate about whether Stephen was actually an abuser or just misunderstood. The epilogue raised more questions than provided answers. Our group had varying opinions depending on which character’s perspective we were discussing. We all enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the ending and agreed it was very clever. It was a lot of fun to discuss our own opinions and debate what we believed to be the truth. Some of our members took the book at face value, while others questioned what we had read and what we believed to be the truth.

"We liked how the story was told with alternating points of view and followed along easily when the perspective changed. The book dealt with some serious topics but was written in a very light-hearted way that made it a quick enjoyable read."

Menu: “Heather would have been proud! We met at a country club,  in true Aston fashion. We had Mahi tacos and quesadillas in honor of Rachel and Darcy’s first date.”

Thrillers by the Book: "A perfect match! We’re big fans of Sally Hepworth! We loved the intriguing vibe the author created by not revealing right away who was involved in the accident from the opening scene. The story is based on many factors, dysfunctional family dynamics, abusive relationships, addiction, mental issues, and so many juicy secrets. We enjoyed Sally’s writing style and the characters she created. Sally has a way of making her characters very relatable and down to earth. We also enjoyed how she connected a piece of her real-life to one of the scenes in this book. Some of the secondary characters seemed to love Stephen but Heather and his kids suspect him of being abusive. The ending left us wondering if Stephen was in actual fact abusive. The women around him suffered a lot of 'accidents' but it’s never clear if they were really accidents or intentional. We recommend this title for book clubs that enjoy a family drama with a hint of suspense. Thank you for spoiling our book club!"

Page Ladies of Cleveland, Ohio, Bibliobibuli of San Diego, California, and HAH Reading Club of Kaukama, Wisconsin
THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY by Sherri L. Smith ((Penguin Young Readers, 2//20)
From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war.

Page Ladies: “Thank you for sharing this amazing, compelling, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking story about life in Japan during World War II. We were surprised by how much research went into it, and we are always interested in books that can teach us something. The story switches between Taro and Hana's perspectives so we see two sides of the story and what each experienced. Could we imagine being Hana, having to take care of the kamikaze pilots and then say goodbye to them, knowing that they will more than likely die? We talked about Hana and the pilot—how they felt at the beginning of the book versus the end— as well as the choices that surprised us and whether we would do the same. This was an emotional read and the pace moves well with the story."

Bibliobibuli: “Our members enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY, and our chat with author Sherri Smith was especially enjoyable. The novel is a fictionalized account of young kamikaze pilots and the teen-aged girls who provided platonic camaraderie and emotional support to them during World War II. Smith employs lyrical prose to introduce the reader to war-torn Japan and the youth culture that rallied around Emperor Hirohito. We appreciated learning more about the Japanese perspective on World War II. Hana’s disparaging remarks about Americans made us realize that we had never heard from the youth of Japan about the events of the war."

HAH Reading Club: We really enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY and its different perspectives on World War II We discussed how the novel reminded us of the current situation with the Ukrainian and Russian war. The author talked about remembering so it doesn’t happen again, and we discussed how emotional we felt about the abuse, propaganda, and conditioning that happened to prepare the civilians and boys for the war.
We compared how the reading of trauma and the emotional impact, ranges based on the age of the reader. We discussed the comparison of how being ready for death in a moment you can’t control, such as a reaction to an air raid, and the premeditated preparation of the pilots to body-crash was handled and how the author gave us both views. We also found how the invasion was perceived after all the preparations made to fight to the death as the expectation from the government. We recommend this novel to clubs looking for an emotional experience with a dive into other cultures."

Boys Book Club, San Jose California; Between the Lines, Woolwich, New Jersey Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
GENEVA by Richard C. Armitage (Pegasus 10/23)
A bold and unpredictable debut thriller set in Switzerland's biotech world (and deceptive beauty), by acclaimed actor Richard Armitage.  

 Boys Book Club:“ We enjoyed GENEVA, a page-turner! We found ourselves engrossed in a discussion about the complex themes in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, global intrigue, and the chilling notion of brain implants that seem all too real. These topics and the ethical dilemmas presented in the book sparked an interesting conversation. We enjoyed the characters and the author’s vivid descriptions. Those who listened to the audio version narrated by Richard Armitage, Nicola Walker, and Jane Perry highly recommended it.

Menu: “Cheese fondue, Toblerone chocolate. Two beers: Forgotten Thoughts and Stranger than Fiction"

Reading Between the Wines: “GENEVA was a great match for our book club. We love reading mysteries and thrillers and this fast-paced thriller set in Geneva, Switzerland in the world of biotech research, had some great red herrings to keep us interested and intrigued. We discussed the biotech world and the ethics surrounding new discoveries. We also discussed the dynamics between Sarah and her husband Daniel, and how her career as a  Nobel prize-winning scientist affected their relationship We enjoyed discussing GENEVA!. Lots of red herrings and a great twist kept the conversation going!"

Menu: "Chocolate fondue with fruit and cookies, cheese fondue and bread, mulled wine, and Toblerone!"

Between the Lines: "We were wowed that GENEVA is Richard’s debut novel—the last 20 minutes of the book had us on the edge of our seats!”-“We all enjoyed, this fast-paced thriller read. GENEVA dives into Alzheimer’s, family dynamics, and the biotech industry. It was a roller coaster ride. We have family members with medical illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and we’re interested in the biotech part of the story. We loved the ending and couldn’t get over how it unfolded—it was our favorite part. We recommend GENEVA to book clubs that enjoy a heart-pumping, edge-of-your-seat ending.  Richard Armitage narrates the male POV, so get the audio and give your ears a true treat."

Menu: "Fondue with Swiss cheese, as book is set in Switzerland"

Romancing the Hearthstone, Rogers Arkansas; Happy Bookers, Linn, Missouri; Legacy Literary Ladies, The Villages, Florida   
STREET CORNER DREAMS by Florence Reiss Kraut (SheWrites, 11/23)
A  novel about  Golda, who comes to America yearning for independence before World War I, but tosses aside her dreams of freedom and marries her widowed brother-in-law after her sister dies giving birth to their son.

Romancing the Hearthstone: “We all gave STREET CORNER DREAMS five stars!. We adored it. Most members couldn’t put it down and read it in two days. They loved the writing style and commented that the pacing was great for historical fiction— a page-turner.  This was a wonderful story told from the perspective of an immigrant. The novel made us feel so grateful for what we have. The discussion centered on how weak Ben was and how strong Goulda and Sarah were.  Members were invested in this story and wanted a sequel to know what happens to Morty.”

Legacy Literary Ladies: “Most members enjoyed STREET CORNER DREAMS from the onset, but ended up loving the novel. As the characters developed, the story was very believable, andhated to see it end, with engaging twists and turns. It is an emotionally charged story that reads easily and is well crafted.  A vivid portrayal of the immigrant experience with believable, vivid.  characters and an engaging story that we all felt a connection to.
Menu: Potato latkes

Happy Bookers: "STREET CORNER DREAMS was full of historical events, family drama with struggles, perseverance, and romance. The surprises and twists in various storylines kept our discussion going!"-The characters will long live in our reading memories: Golda, Ben, Morty, Anna, Sylvia, Surah, and Esther. The difficulties and struggles of these immigrants as they faced the events of the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, and World War 1 provide an influx of social history surrounding their lives. It was intriguing to read the family mysteries surrounding those characters, who are working toward their dreams, as they work through their difficulties and challenges. Which loves will prevail amidst the pressures of war, the gangs, and economic factors of the day as they work to make their way in their new land?

We didn’t know much about the gangs of New York. Families and businesses faced many obstacles and were targeted by gang threats of paying protection fees to survive. A main discussion topic was comparing our lives and advantages to the hardships of our nation's newcomers. We wondered if we could withstand the modes of travel, lack of communication and job opportunities, and health crises with limited care with the same fortitude." 

Menu: "Anna’s uncle Tony’s deli-inspired bread, salami, and Swiss cheese. We meet on the opening night of the Osage View restaurant overlooking beautiful rolling hills that many immigrants years ago came upon in settling in our county.


Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Lit Happens, California, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Missouri

THE FARMER'S WIFE by Helen Rebanks (Harper Horizon,  9/23)
An honest portrait of rural life and an authentic exploration of both the hard work and reward of keeping a home and raising a family.

Ranch Readers: We loved this memoir and felt it was rare in that it was raw and practical. It made us remember our own trials and tribulations of courtship, career choice, having babies, and the hard work of being a mother and supportive wife. Although Helen experienced many changes in lifestyle she ultimately realized being a wife and mother were the most important aspects of her life and those choices made her the happiest. We enjoyed the recipes she so effortlessly executed, and we felt almost like a family member, getting to know the various individuals she wrote about so intimately and from her heart. A few members spoke about the long hours of work and almost constant attention needed to maintain farm animals that farming involves, and how every member of the family has to contribute to maintaining a farm, the loneliness they often experienced by living isolated on a large farm as children, but also the joys of sharing the rebirth every spring of the farm animals' young and planting season being completed. They also remembered the joys of harvest season when other farmers would gather to help each other and then celebrate by sharing a large meal together. We all enjoyed reading about how food and cooking were important to the author and spoke about the recipes we wanted to try as we discussed the book. We also discussed how family farms contribute the most to preserving sustainable practices and how important it is to support farmers, shepherds, and ranchers. The memoir encouraged us to think about writing our own life stories and including favorite family recipes. Recommended for those who enjoy reading honest memoirs, and being a wife and mother.” 

Menu: “Helen's Lentil and Tomato Soup before our discussion--it was so delicious!—and her Lemon Drizzle Cake for dessert”

The Revivals: "We enjoy cooking and this book presented a wonderful opportunity for us to share our kitchen prowess by each of us preparing one or two dishes that came together as a shared dinner; family dinners being a priority for Helen. We discussed Helen's unique art and her enjoyment of creating a comfortable family home. We agree with Helen and share her enjoyment of home-cooked meals and family mealtimes. We discussed our own comfort levels with home births and marveled at Helen's thoughtfully made choices with her second child. We cheered for Helen when she perfectly described the many hats a stay-at-home mom wears and the feelings accompanying that life path. While possibly not given enough attention in the book, Helen writes with personal insight on the food choices we all should be paying more attention to and the farmers who provide our life-sustaining food. In clear and concise few short paragraphs, Helen has enlightened us on the importance of sustainable farming systems that encourage ‘good food from good farming.’. We recommend this book to those who enjoy coming of age, home cooking, memoirs, and women's studies. "

Menu: “Members chose and recreated recipes from the book: Smoked salmon rectangles, hummus and pita chips, frittata, field mushroom soup and croutons, easy chocolate cake, and panettone(bread and butter) pudding.”

Get Woke: "A magical evening! In honor of THE FARMER’S WIFE, and farm-to-table eating, we partnered with the Pleasant Grove Pizza- where host Emily creates unique pizzas with local and seasonal food, which enriched our discussion and palate. Rebanks reflects on her life revealing family struggles and relationships, the challenges of motherhood, and the stigma of honoring ‘small domestic things’ She champions the importance of the daily grind of domesticity. Her thoughts are enhanced by sketches, and family recipes are sprinkled throughout the book.

"Her ideas about the benefits of a simple life, and enthusiasm for farm life, and the prevailing attitudes regarding women’s roles struck a chord with our group. Several members grew up in farming families, and they recalled the wives’ drudgery, cooking, and cleaning as never-ending activities, feeling trapped in the house, constantly preparing field lunch boxes.
Rebanks feels the false perceptions and frustrations that can stereotype ‘life within the home”. The importance of mundane, day-to-day events is often overlooked. The prevalent, cultural dogma strongly suggests that 'life outside the home is more important than the one inside the home.' She realizes that there are all kinds of 'mums' that 'carry our own stuff on our shoulders,' and unless we have walked in each other’s shoes, we should not judge.
Rebanks focuses on food, including her journey as a cook and inherited family recipes. She encourages readers to shop locally and seasonally. In southern Minnesota, we enjoy local meat and produce, and this theme resonated. We designed our meeting to honor the local food movement. Our hosts Emily and Bill partner with local farmers, winemakers, and brewers. Their farm consists of 55 acres of prairie grassland and oak trees, home to animals, a wood-fired pizza oven, a barn, and a large garden. We celebrated THE FARMER’S WIFE with Emily’s unique food creations— and she joined our discussion."
Menu: "Smoked Salmon Crostini (inspired by Rebanks’ recipe) Piggy in the Orchard Pizza, Apple Pie Pizza, local wine."
Lit Happens:
Menu: Spaghetti Carbonara with Mushrooms, and Dauphinoise Potatoes. Scrambled Eggs and Homemade Fries, Maple-Sweetened Overnight Oat, Hot Chocolate Flight. Lemon Meringue Pie.

Chapter by Chapter Book Club of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Happy Bookers of Linn, Missouri; Words!Women!Wine! of Brookfield, Wisconsin

THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY by Katherine A. Sherbrooke  (Pegasus Books, 4/23)
The story of a runway model in 1940s Hollywood who makes a split-second decision intended to protect those she loves but triggers a cascade of secrets that threatens to upend her daughter’s life decades later.

Chapter by Chapter: "THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY was a great match. We really enjoy historical fiction and several members commented that they enjoyed the glimpse behind the scenes of the fashion industry in Hollywood. We were interested in how their lifestyle judged those involved in fashion and industry. Several members had read THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO and talked about the similarities between the two books. Told from the perspective of mother/daughter protagonists in dual time periods on opposite coasts, this one kept me turning the page late into the night. I didn’t expect to be so absorbed, but I highly recommend this read!"

Menu: "As a nod to Benny’s meatballs, our potluck included meatball pizza. Our drink was Caramel Apple Cider—a nod to the Berkshires, which was referenced in the novel."

Happy Bookers:  “From the fabulous cover to the title to the main character’s name, we were intrigued! When we learned that the book was inspired by the author‘s mother, it added even more interest. THE HIDDEN LIFE OF ASTER KELLY is a story of secrets, of decisions, and the consequences of those decisions, with surprising twists and entanglements that kept us reading to learn how the mother’s choices impact her daughter’s life. Learning about Hollywood particularly the fashion, and glamour of 1940s Hollywood to 1970s Broadway was fascinating. Our conversation focused on the difficulty of life-altering decisions and their outcomes. We discussed the bonds of the chosen family and the strength of love and loyalty. An interesting point was how the story involved a coming of age for both Aster and her daughter Lissy. Choices involving Lissy’s Broadway and Noah’s music careers gave us much to talk about. And no one saw a big twist coming! I have since listened to several of the author's interviews and love her background story for this book. We look forward to reading more of her books. We recommend this novel to those who enjoy historical fiction about Hollywood, Broadway, and family drama."

Menu: “Our versions of Benny’s homemade meatballs and soup. When served, we commented on how this was the ultimate comfort food for this story.”

Words!Women!Wine!: "We all enjoyed this book and the strong female protagonists and both timeline plots. We had a great discussion with many viewpoints. We discussed  Sam and Aster's relationship. Both characters seemed to have conflicting feelings, although the relationship had some redeeming qualities One member noted that Aster had made so many fabrications about her life, it was hard to keep her secrets straight. It was as if the fabrications were woven into her background, much like her early desire to be a fashion designer. Many of us liked that Aster moved from clothing to sculpture and felt that was a well-developed plot line.

We all agreed that the love story of Fernando and Benedict/Christopher was the best in the book. We discussed it must have been for gay celebrities in the 40s & 50s and even still today. We had not heard of the term ' avender scare’ which led us into a discussion of discrimination and profits and politics. It was interesting to us that both females fixated on their one true love - even though initially they both let them go. Many of us thought it was predictable that Christopher/Benny would die after the lead-up to that scene, but we were all shocked in the end that the death had been fake. We had a lot of discussions around the death, funeral, and new stories. Suggested for clubs that enjoy a female-centered novel with a lot of relationships and secrets.

Menu: "Prosecco and shrimp cocktail (very Hollywood) and followed that with a "Tivoli dinner of caesar salad, penne & meatballs. We had an Italian Love cake for dessert! "                                                                                           

 

St. Louis Lit Book Club, Missouri; Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota  Angry Book Club, Norwich, Connecticut
THE INTERN by Michele Campbell, (St. Martin’s Press, 10/23)
A young Harvard law student falls under the spell of a charismatic judge in this timely and thrilling novel about class, ambition, family, and murder.

St. Louis Lit Book Club: “As fall nears the perfect book to pick up is a thriller like THE INTERN, which was interesting from the beginning. and the action was not far-fetched, which was nice for a thriller. Having two points of view allowed our book club to choose which characters we liked most and why. There were many characters to keep track of, which added layers to the discussion. Legal thrillers were new to some, and the reaction was positive to receiving a new type of book we may not have otherwise picked. Recommended for those who enjoy legal thrillers, and multi-character stories. and fast-paced mysteries."

Menu: "We drank wine to match the cover at Winnie's Wine Bar in St. Louis."

Angry Book Club: We enjoyed THE INTERN! We are known for being pretty critical (hence the anger) but this book got thumbs up, and we especially enjoyed the end! This book had me turning pages, especially with the switched perspectives! There was much conversation about Madison’s indecisiveness, which annoyed some members, while others thought it made her more relatable. We also discussed whether Katherine was smart enough to escape her situation without taking the steps she did. Several of us live near, or have spent time in Boston, and really enjoyed the Boston descriptions and mentions of real restaurants and places —the characters actually drink Dunkin, take the T (and get off at real stops), and live in areas of the city that make sense. This led to a great discussion about books that successfully create a sense of place and the joy of reading books about places we have lived. Recommended for those who enjoy legal thrillers.

Melanie's Book Club: "We all loved THE INTERN. It was a great match for our book club because it's rare for us to find a book that we all enjoy and this was that book! We had an excellent discussion about the book, specifically talking about the relationships among the characters in the book- and how they affected their decision-making. Being from the Midwest, we couldn't really relate to the mob connections, but we could relate to family difficulties and making difficult decisions regarding family members  We had many discussions about our families and the different relationships, troubles, and decisions. We know each other well, but it was interesting to learn more and refreshing to hear that all families have issues and work through them in different ways. Recommended for those who enjoy conflict, suspense, and deciding how far you'll go to protect your family."     

The Famished for Fiction Book Club of Frisco, Texas, Flagstaff Ladies Book Club, Arizona, Boozy Books Book Club and Kaukauna Wisconsin

YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 5/23)
A YA novel about Harriet Douglass, a teenager living with her historian father on a plantation turned enslaved people's museum, who must handle her feelings of anger when an actress who purchased the plantation next door, plans to turn it into an event venue.

Famished for Fiction: “We loved this multilayered story. The magnitude of all the things affecting Harriet led to a lot of thoughtful discussion. We gave it 5/5 stars!"

The setting of the book reminded us of Whitney Plantation in South Louisiana. We discussed the struggle that exists between the beauty of the plantation homes and grounds the acknowledgment of the horrors of slavery and the pain and suffering of the enslaved people that were forced against their will to build those homes and maintain those grounds. Is it possible to be in awe of those beautiful places and yet heartbroken by the pain that surrounds them?

The importance of seeing both sides of a story and acknowledging them is what leads to improvement in our relationships with people who are different from ourselves. Harriett spent much time caring for herself as her father was unable to do more than the bare minimum after the death of her mother. Harriett's anger with outsiders' inability to see, acknowledge, and respect the purpose of a landmark such as their plantation. We recommend this book to those who enjoy thought-provoking reads that have a different perspective from the 'norm. We are a diverse group of women who enjoy thought-provoking books that enhance our discussion and this was a great fit."

Menu:  Down South Kitchen and Bakery for Southern food

Boozy Books: "Thank you for the match! We might not have read YOUR PLANTATION PROM IS NOT OKAY otherwise. When a book makes you cry it’s automatically a great book .We liked the mix of the main character's naïveté and cynicism as the book progresses. We discussed toxic parenting and our perceptions of the adults, the character’s adjustments as they navigate issues, our appreciation of having a flawed main character, and the grace given to Layla but not the white friends she grew up with. We were interested in the 17-year-old perspective—and all the current social issues and cultural references, such as TikTok. 'What’s up with teen/middle school boys and frogs' stood out as an amusement.

We recommend this novel to clubs who enjoy contemporary social issue books, or DEAR MARTIN or THE HATE YOU GIVE.”

Flagstaff Ladies: “We all enjoyed this novel, which spurred much discussion about the South (none of us grew up there), plantations, tourist rentals, grief, and growing up a person of color in today's America. We also liked the main character because Harriet is such a teenager —more than half of us are moms of girls).

We live in a tourist town, so though the housing isn't all historic, there are wealthy outsiders who have second homes here, so the way Harriet bristles at the new neighbors resonated. The way she also kind of liked the new girl and determined she was human was also something a few of us could identify with. And her anger issues...not unfamiliar! It was a great trait to give Harriet, and we talked a bit about our own struggles with rage, as well as dealing with others who have trouble controlling theirs.

We have a significant Native-American presence in our city, so that is where we see discrimination, disrespect, and racism crop up, and we had a great discussion about how as women, we also see (and experience) these micro- or upfront- aggressions more readily than our male partners. We also discussed being in a bit of a bubble because it is a small city, and there are no obvious monuments to discrimination that we would drive by all the time (on the nearby reservation, yes). The discussion about grief was also interesting -- how do you remember your loved ones? Do you remember their last days or the rest of their lives? We had a debate about Dawn and what we would have thought about our daughters dating him, or a friend dating their childhood buddy. We liked him but realized we would have been protective of Harriet because she was not very savvy about relationships. We thought the story was well-written and it was nice that it didn't end with everything neatly resolved -- that was realistic. Recommended for those who enjoy novels about young adults, the South, and that discuss racism."                                        

Menu: "One of our group stopped at fast food on the way to book club. Shout out to Harriet's dad!"        

 The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Woodlands Lunch and Books, Woodlands, Texas Get Woke, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado "

CHASING THE PANTHER: Adventures and Misadventures of a Cinematic Life Carolyn Pfeiffer with Gregory Collins (Harper Horizon, 6/23)
Film producer and early Hollywood female coming-of-age memoir, set against the backdrop of Fellini's Rome, French New Wave Paris, and Swinging London.

Get Woke: "CHASING THE PANTHER reads like a novel: encounters with the rich and famous; travels to exotic cities and countries, experiences, and success as a pioneering film producer and PR representative. We called Pfeiffer the ‘female Forrest Gump’'–Readers travel on a high-speed train rocketing through Pfeiffer’s coming-of-age adventures as she explores NYC and Europe during the turbulent 1960s-‘70s amidst the significant cultural shifts and the ascendance of the film industry. Pfeiffer vividly describes the art, culture, and society of post-war Europe and New York City. Her insights into the actors and film industry were fascinating. The film industry's growth is part of a larger story involving changing attitudes and paradigm shifts of the post-war years, a time when many of us also came of age. The introduction of the birth control pill and Pfeiffer’s romantic encounters mirrored the cultural changes. Book club invitations featured film strips. members were asked to become film directors: and select highlights from the book for a film preview. We discussed the changing role of women and Pfeiffer’s lifetime goal of ‘pushing boundaries’. She felt you had to ‘leave yourself behind’ to discover uniqueness. We were drawn to her comments on women’s status: the expectation that a woman’s role was to be worthy of a man. Her reply resonated: ‘Let no one ever call me worthy.’ Pfeiffer challenged the attitudes of patriarchy, the power of men, and the sensuality of women. Her adventures allowed us to experience the paradigm shifts occurring in the world—positive and negative We agreed her talents, opportunities, and personality allowed her to take advantage of this era, and the difficulty of duplicating this experience today."

Menu: "Honoring her European adventures: Caprese skewers, olives, goat cheese & figs, Pinot Grigio."

The Revivals: “CHASING THE PANTHER covers so many points of interest that it was easy for us to chat all the way through dessert!" We took turns reading and discussing Carolyn's numerous life reflections and insights - we highlighted dozens of quotes. We marveled at Carolyn's remarkable and brave life as she fearlessly pursued her goals. It felt like two books in one: Carolyn's honest and heartfelt observations about her experiences, and a comprehensive cinematic timeline from Europe to the United States. We focused on the former, but scholars will find a valuable resource in the cinematic narrative. As Pfeiffer discussed celebrities, producers, and directors— at times this overwhelmed us, but we are not familiar with the industry and these details were a first exposure. We enjoyed Carolyn's numerous life reflections. GalleyMatch has inspired us to read books we would not have known about and/or genres we would not have selected on our own."

Menu: "Lunch overlooking the lake with multicultural appetizers: Baba ganoush with toasted pita bread (a nod to Omar Sharif); Beet and goat cheese dip with assorted fresh vegetables (Market Fresh Vegetables like one would shop for in France), Avocado chicken salad with jicama and peperoncini peppers on a bed of lettuce with French baguette (A nod to Italy) Dessert:-Lemon buttermilk ice cream with black currant jam and sugar cone."

Woodlands Lunch and Books:  "A good match for It is interesting to read about lives so different from our own and we enjoyed this coming-of-age story.  In a world of cinematic greats, it was fun to read some of the portrayals from Carolyn’s perspective.  A member commented that reading the book made them want to see Doctor Zhivago and another mentioned that they loved Omar Sharif even more after reading the book.  There was a discussion of a disturbing scene in the book and many were disappointed at the actor involved.  We also enjoyed the descriptions of some of the locales throughout Europe that we knew.  As Carolyn discovered herself through the many ups and downs of her early life, it was fascinating to watch her independence shine, especially with Suso d’Amico supporting her career choices. A few members were unfamiliar with numerous names and had to search online for them. Those that enjoy biographies and memoirs, especially of old Hollywood would enjoy this book."

Ranch Readers: "We recall the 1950s and '60s and thoroughly enjoyed CHASING THE PANTHER—the people, films, and occasions were familiar to us, making it a delightful read.

We found Ms. Pfeiffer's memoir exceptionally captivating and thought-provoking. It provided a glimpse into the golden era of cinema behind the scenes. We sympathized with her misfortunes and rejoiced in her successes as a self-sufficient and accomplished woman. We remember the movie era when Carolyn began her career and those she met and interacted with throughout. Although it seemed she lived a fairy tale life, Carolyn faced traumatic events she recounted with candor. Her strength and determination allowed her to overcome adversity and lead a fulfilling artistic life. Her memoir offers a glimpse into the world of fame and fortune in the film industry and a raw, honest portrayal of her struggles and triumphs.

The images added to our enjoyment—several members remembered having photos of Omar Sharif on their bedroom walls as teenagers. We discussed our recollections of the era that Carolyn described, including the films, directors, and producers she mentioned. Despite the notable progress made in women's rights, we realized many obstacles Carolyn faced still endure. The consensus was that success in the film industry depends on connections, and we were impressed by her ability to form relationships with influential figures, and that she was able to rise above her tragedies with grace and not let them deter her from living her best life. Recommended for readers who enjoy a memoir full of experiences more interesting than fiction and film history."

Menu: "Italian cookies that were a tribute to Carolyn's adventures in Italy."

Junior League Book Club of Kalamazoo, Michigan; Spectacles Book  Club, Geneva, Ohio, and Hagerstown Housewives, Hagerstown, Maryland
NO TWO PERSONS  by Erica Bauermeister (St. Martin's Press, 5/2/23)
A novel about the ways in which one book transforms its readers' lives.

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “Every member loved NO TWO PERSONS, the first book in a long time that we overwhelmingly agreed that we loved.T his book is about a book and the reactions and experiences of nine people who encounter it. Even those that couldn’t attend our discussion were texting with their input— the consensus—this book is a home run. We had a great discussion centered around the first line of the fictional book ‘Wandering is a gift given only to the lost,’ and the idea that no two people ever experience anything exactly the same way.

We discussed the way each character responded to the book and why we felt they were so drawn to it. We loved the little Easter Eggs of how characters were connected and agreed that the widower's story was one of our favorites/most heartbreaking. We loved how the story of each character seemed like it could be a stand-alone short story.

“We were surprised that our entire book club loved the book— we tend to be very opinionated and are almost always split on our reading selections. And that we all loved it was much more interesting, as the theme is about how people experience books differently. Just Ike the characters in the book, we had different experiences and reactions while reading it, but in the end, we were all drawn to it for many of the same reasons. Every last one of us recommends NO TWO PERSONS, especially for those who enjoy short stories, unique characters, and lively discussion."

Spectacles: "We agreed that NO TWO PERSONS was a perfect match for our group. What a thought-provoking book. Each book club member’s favorite parts, thoughts, characters, and quotes began a lively conversation about the value and power of words. The individual stories demonstrated how one book can affect readers in amazing and unexpected ways.  It was interesting to read how one book connected all the characters. 

We loved all of the characters and their stories, and everyone in our book club had a favorite.  As teachers, many of us connected with Nola—a character we could easily relate to—and we thought William and Abigail's story was heartbreaking.  We learned through Alice's story that in many ways, a writer's own life experiences affect what is written.We explored the character in each story and saw how the stories were connected.  We discussed how parts of Alice's book were found in each chapter.  It was interesting to see how and when we were able to put the bits and pieces together to tell Theo's story.   As the chapters progressed, we were able to see the impact that the book had on each person and how they moved on.  This book reminded us that no two persons interpret the same book in the same way and interpretations that we share depend on where we are at a certain time.  In addition to the written stories, we loved how the cover depicted the nine readers!

We shared some of our favorite quotes for discussion, such as ‘The beauty of books—they take you places you didn't know you needed to go.’

Menu: "Foods connected to stories: Ramen noodle salad, granola bars (Nola). PBJ sliders and potato chips (Alice and Peter), banana muffins (William)"

Hagerstown Housewives:  “We all enjoyed NO TWO PERSONS. Erica Bauermeister's writing was loved by all. We loved the premise that one story can affect people differently. Some of the most interesting topics were the different chapters that each individual person in my book club liked and their reasons why. We discussed the different stories that resonated. Since we are all book lovers in our book club, we connected to the story of each of the 9 persons who read about Theo.   We all had a soft spot for the book and its many characters. We recommend for those who enjoy relatable stories that connect people in inspiring ways.”                     

Famished for Fiction, Frisco, Texas; Lit Ladies, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Between the Pages, Mt. Morris, New York
BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by Diane Chamberlain( St. Martins Press, 2020)
A novel of chilling intrigue, a decades-old disappearance, and a woman’s quest for the truth.

Famished for Fiction: We highly recommend BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN, which will remain with us for a long time. The contrasting timelines of the 1940s and the present day, as well as the varying perspectives, made for a captivating read." -

"Chamberlain's writing was impressive, and she has now become one of our favorite authors. Our club enjoyed this intricately crafted book and appreciated the diversity of opinions from our multi-racial group. We learned about the WPA project and the historical setting of Edenton, North Carolina, which we found fascinating. During our discussions, we explored the complex relationships between characters, such as Jesse and Anna, Morgan and Oliver. We delved into the secrets that Nellie kept, and the burden of family responsibility. The ending kept us guessing, and the short chapters made it easy to follow the multiple storylines. Most members gave this novel a 5/5 rating.”

Lit Ladies: "We all enjoyed this novel and it inspired great discussion—success! We discussed the dual timelines, the connections between the protagonists, the art restoration process and research, the epilogue ending, and various aberrations/additions in the mural that Anna added. Members commented that they ‘binged it,’ ‘loved it, ‘couldn’t put it down,’ and “read 250 pages at once.' We recommend to clubs that enjoy historical thrillers and mysteries."

Between the Pages: “Thank you for this read! Hot discussion topics were the dual storyline, life in prison, the big reveal, and small-town life. We live in a small area, so that was discussed at length. We recommend for those clubs that enjoy Intertwined storylines and thrills."                        

Thrillers by the Bookclub-SoCal, and Reckless Readers, Eastford, Connecticut
THE SOULMATE by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 4/23)
A thriller about marriage, betrayal, and the secrets that push us to the edge,

Thrillers by the Bookclub-SoCal: "We loved THE SOULMATE!, a perfect match for our book club. Most agreed that this one is one of our favorite Sally Hepworth We’re huge fans of hers. Half of our book club met Sally in person during her book tour at Zibby's Bookshop— fantastic! 

"We discussed the dynamics between the two couples and which one was the true soulmate. We appreciated how the author added important topics such as mental health, adoption, and addiction. The characters were intriguing and the level of suspense had us on the edge of our seats. We loved having the perspective of Amanda which gave us a great insight into details about the characters’ relationships.

We enjoyed talking about Gabe’s transformation from the beginning of the story, when we all thought he was a wonderful human being, to the end,  where many details about his character are revealed. The discussion questions provided an excellent guide for our chat. We recommend THE SOULMATE to book clubs that enjoy reading suspenseful family dramas with an atmospheric setting."

Reckless Readers: Normally we discuss the book for a little while, and then jump to other topics. Not last night! There was too much to discuss after reading THE SOULMATE —everyone loved the book and the twists! This book was such a conversation starter! Sally Hepworth is so good at working mental health into her books. Hepworth nailed the portrayal of mental illness as well as codependency— the character Gabe was hard to read, because of how accurately she depicted his illness. Members wanted to break down the relationship between Pippa and Gave, and how forgiving Pippa was when most people would walk. It was an emotional conversation, with so many personal perspectives and stories.

Most members had never read a Sally Hepworth book. After last night, everyone added her books to their TBR lists. I’ve been reading her for years, and was happy to see they felt the same way about her books! Sally is an excellent storyteller. Thank you so much for the excellent #GalleyMatch.

Menu: "Soulmate bars—peanut butter & jelly—the ultimate soulmate of food! And “The Drop Martini” —a cranberry lemon drop martini, that will send you over the edge after only a few! " 

Get Lit Book Club, Coto de Caza, California, and April's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas

THE STORIES WE TELL: Every Piece of Your Story Matters by Joanna Gaines (Harper Select . 11/8/22)
The first solo memoir from the Magnolia co-founder.

April's Book Chat: THE STORIES WE TELL sparked lively conversations and reflections among our members. Many members resonated with Gaines' experiences of racial hate and bullying, finding validation in their own experiences with mixed heritage. The book inspired us to consider journaling as a means of processing life's events and thoughts, and we appreciated the pearls of wisdom scattered throughout the text. While some members debated whether the book was self-help or memoir, others simply enjoyed it for what it was. We recommend this book to fans of personal development books.

We met at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Shops at Creekside in Frisco, Texas, a cozy spot with a welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of Gaines' own design style, making it the perfect location for our discussion."

Get Lit: "We’re all fans of Chip and Joanna’s and enjoyed learning more about her. Chip is so funny and Joanna always appears to be calm, so it was interesting learning about her childhood and the difficulties she faced.

“Everyone agreed the book was a fast read and we enjoyed getting to know Joanna and her story, earning about how she grew up, met Chip, how they started their business and raised children in a world that can be harsh sometimes. We discussed ‘growing up being ‘different’ than her classmates and how we overcame that. Some members found junior high to be difficult while others struggled in high school. We recommend it to those who enjoy memoirs/ nonfiction/self-help. Fans of Chip and Joanna should pick up THE STORIES WE TELL, and sit down to read it with some biscuits and jam as we did!”
Menu: “We made and discussed recipes from THE MAGNOLIA TABLE COOKBOOK! We enjoyed Joanna‘s famous biscuits, silo cookies, scones, and stuffed mushrooms. Joanna is gifted with her baking and decorating— such a unique individual."

Jensen Beach County Club's Womens Book Club of Florida,  The Wine Club With a Book Problem of Acworth, Georgia, and Blu Stocking Literary Society of West Allis, Wisconsin
THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS by M.J. Rose (Blue Box, 2/23)

A tale of two passionate women— a  famous jewelry designer who fights to protect her company and rescue the man she loves, and an auctioneer whose gifts reveal a secret that endangers her very life, 

Jensen Beach County Club:  “We loved the descriptions of the jewelry that Suzanne Belperron made and the majority of us had researched Suzanne's designs after reading the book.A good match for our book club. We enjoy historical fiction or books with strong women. This novel features a dual timeline— France, 1942, and New York, 1986. Suzanne is a sought-after jewelry designer in France and her longtime lover and business partner, Bernard has been arrested by the Nazis. Violine is an appraiser for an auction company in 1986 and has been approached by Paul Osgood about selling family antiques. While visiting his home, she discovers a hidden compartment in a vintage Louis Vuitton case containing WWII-era jewelry. Violine is gifted with learning the history and secrets of objects she touches, and their owners and realizes that the jewelry has a long and tragic history. Violine and Paul work together to discover the history of the case and the jewelry. We discussed how Dixie and Suzanne demonstrated this in their work for the resistance movement."

Menu: "French rose wine, croissants, olives, brie, baguettes with French butter, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, dark chocolate squares, and cappuccino."

The Wine Club With a Book Problem "THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS is a captivating and powerful story that grabs you from the first page— a good match for as we like historical fiction with strong women. We enjoy books in which we learn something new, and the story prompts us further investigate a topic—in this case, Suzanne Belperron, one of the most innovative jewelers of her time, and her jewelry designs. This intriguing story explored Suzanne Belperron's courage and those who participated in the French Resistance by helping Jewish families leave France. We liked the novel's alternating dual timelines—Paris 1942 and New York 1986—which link Suzanne and Violine, an art historian/appraiser with a  supernatural gift.  We noted that this is the first book we've read that involves psychometry.” 

Rose has written a beautiful and descriptive story. We recommend this book to those that enjoy magical realism, suspense, and World War II fiction."

Menu: "Brie, apples, Classic French Salad (romaine, tarragon, chives, walnuts with a lemon vinaigrette, Ina Garten's Bouef Bourguignon, Mashed Potatoes, macarons. truffles."

Blu Stocking: An excellent selection for our club. This story was fascinating and the psychometry was an interesting twist. We enjoy reading about real people in history within a historical fiction context. While the characters are placed in a fictional story, there is much to take away. Several of us did some research on Suzanne Belperron and her jewelry designs. We also like the alternating timeline. robust discussion. We discussed psychometry's 'unbelievable' aspect juxtapositioned with an equally 'unbelievable' period of history as the holocaust. Also, we talked about the courage and actions of people in this world that are so brave and committed even in the face of personal danger, as well as the variety of themes—determination, strength of character, hope, faith, and love in all its incarnations, lovers (Suzanne/Bernard/Jean), friends (Suzanne & Dixie) and love of country/places (France)”

Curious Book Club,  Frederick, Maryland; St. Louis Women’s Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; First Saturday Book Club, Pensacola, Florida

PRACTICE GIRL by Estelle Laure (Penguin Teen, 5/22)
A novel about a girl who rejects her label and decides for herself who she is to the world—about reputation and double standards,

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: “The themes were fantastic and the character was so likable. This YA novel explores high school, sexuality, friendships, and relationships. The themes of finding first loves and figuring out who you are made for great conversation! We discussed how high school is portrayed in the media today— are students really doing drugs, alcohol, and sex, as much as they portray? The book was well written and it was easy to visualize the small town high school. There were great moments in the friendships and relationships that are good lessons for that demographic.

Curious Book Club: “It was fun to read a book we typically wouldn’t have chosen - we hadn’t even heard of this one!t’s a YA coming of age/romance that features an angsty teenager that is coping with the loss of a parent and being used by boys who she thinks care for her. The story focuses on the challenges of dating and sex in high school. We loved the friendship storyline that developed throughout the book. Although the main character is very angsty, the emotions were real and raw throughout the story.  We thought that the ending of the story was the most interesting! We loved that Jo was able to have a heart-to-heart with her mom and stepdad to build a better relationship with her family. We all were in favor of the guy she chooses in the end! l. Recommended for those who enjoy YA coming-of-age stories.”

Menu: We met at a diner because there was a diner in the story!

First Saturday Book Club: "We had a great discussion about PRACTICE GIRLan honest, moving YA read that should be in the hands of more teens. PRACTICE GIRL offers a strong look at what it means to participate in a relationship and the need for teens to understand the ramifications of sex and responsibility and dedication to relationships. The author writes with emotional depth—we feel everything Jo goes through, and we root for Jo to win at wrestling and life. It’s clever, charming, and poignant. 

We discussed teenage behaviors: that Jo was not responsible for Sam kissing her yet she is blamed, how girls need to have girl relationships so they have support, the importance of family, taking others into consideration while establishing boundaries, and understanding the relationship before sex. Also, that growing up and having friendships change is difficult but a part of growing up. We all enjoyed this coming-of-age novel, recommended for this for groups that enjoy YA lit with emotional depth."

Happy Bookers, Linn Missouri, Lit Ladies Read Melbourne, Florida, and St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; and Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
WEYWARD by Emila Hart (St. Martin's Press, 3/23)

A novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world

Happy Bookers: “A gem of a book with resilient female characters is our favorite GalleyMatch to date.”- on a novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world, read with galleys from
“Hart has given us much to ponder in a most bewitching tale. Altha, Violet, and Kate will long stay with us for their resilience and fortitude. We agreed that witchcraft isn’t accomplished through spells, but by their connection to the world around them -— and that was most appreciated and enjoyed. We cheered at the comeuppance of the perpetrators who caused harm both physical and mental to the female characters. We discussed the plight and strength of women over the ages dealing with similar treatment. The three women characters were enthralling. The author wove the three timelines of the Weyward women’s lives together expertly. Their plight, resourcefulness, and special powers along with their ties to nature and their strength to survive amidst adversity and ill-treatment earn these characters a place in your heart. The short chapters breeze along while keeping the depth of the characters and story strong. Highly recommended by our group to fellow readers. The perfect fall read. The perfect anytime read! Cannot wait to read more from this author.”

Menu: Orton stew (chicken and rice soup) W pendant cakes(cupcakes), Witches sticks and twigs (fried tortilla strips), Cottage dip (cowboy caviar), Crow Bars (brownie bites), Insect Wings(corn chips), Graham Crackers(saltines and wheat thins), and Morgs(moon drop grapes)in a member’s backyard and woods for our book reenactments."

Lit Ladies Read:“ We loved everything about this book! This is a very compelling read that highlights the connection between women, family, and nature."
WEYWARD is a beautifully written story about the strength and resilience of three different women. The story is told in alternating timelines, in different centuries leaving the reader to wonder how these women are related. The Weyward women all face similar, yet different, hardships of violence, abuse, and expectations of society that they must overcome. The women all have a very strong connection to nature and find strength and inner peace through this connection. The alternating timelines advance the story and keep you wanting more. The descriptive language paints a clear picture, and we loved the alternating timelines—each character's story was compelling and gave a feel for what these women had to endure. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the treatment of women who were deemed ’weird’ throughout history. It is frightening to think that there was a period in history when women could be labeled witches and executed based on nothing more than conjecture and failure to conform to societal expectations. Altha's storyline, in particular really highlighted how ludicrous the idea of witchcraft really is and how scared people were of anyone who was different. Another hot topic was domestic abuse and how difficult it can be for abused women to escape their abuser. Both Kate's and Violet's stories dealt with physical and sexual abuse that required both women to find the strength to remove themselves from their situations. We recommend for those who enjoy stories about women finding their inner strength to overcome hardship.”

Menu: Witching Hour Cabernet Sauvignon and witch hat cupcakes.

St. Louis: "WEYWARD was intense, honest and deeply connected to today’s time The three timelines and main character add layers of interconnected themes and details. At first glance, these are very different women but ultimately all face similar situations. We discussed feminism and the growth of women throughout time, how the patriarchy impacts women’s abilities to make choices, and Nature vs nurture—these women all were born to be Weyward, not raised to be Weyward.
Recommended for those who enjoyed THE LOST APOTHECARY by Sarah Penner; three perspectives or time periods in stories; the power of nature; books about powerful women and the ability to be strong despite the circumstances and external environment. This book has some trigger warnings that I think all readers need to be extremely mindful of before reading (physical/verbal abuse, parental abuse, rape, pregnancy loss, abortion, jail).

Reading Between the Wines: “This book was a perfect match for our club. We all enjoyed this story of three women from the same family line at different points in time. There was so much to discuss here: our connection to the natural world, overcoming trauma, giving yourself grace, and the strength and resilience of women, feminism, women’s connection to the natural world, family legacies, and overcoming trauma We thought the author did a great job incorporating the interconnected stories of Althea, Violet, and Kate. Recommended to book clubs that enjoy women’s fiction, historical fiction with dual timelines, and a touch of magical realism.

Menu: "Food to honor the garden at Weyward cottage, including veggie crackers with garden vegetables, and basil cheese, roasted vegetable pizza, and fresh veggies with hummus. We also had blueberry scones with jam and tea and biscuits as a nod to the English settings in the book."

Longwood Ladies, Goshen, Kentucky and Colonies Book Club, Yorkville, Illinois
ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE by Noelle Salazar ( Mira,/ HTP, 11/22)
A story inspired by true events, about courageous women who risked everything for their country, family, and each other

Longwood Ladies: “ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE was a great book club book.We all loved learning about a neutral country. It was a new take on that era that we all really enjoyed! We discussed how much we learned about the World War II era, We talked a lot about and enjoyed the fact that it shined the light on a true sister act.  It was the first historical fiction I’ve read that took place in the Netherlands during World War II. It was a refreshing change to hear the trials from a neutral neighbor. The characters were easy to relate to and love and my heart was wrenched by their bravery and struggles. We fell in love with the characters —they were strong, intelligent, patient women right from the start and their growth and determination were astounding. We recommend ANGELS to those who enjoy historical fiction and reading about strong women! If you enjoyed THE LILAC GIRLS, ROSE CODE, or Salazar’s first book, FLIGHT GIRLS, you will enjoy this historical fiction. We all thank you immensely!”

Colonies Book Club: "Some members were in tears throughout this beautifully told story of two young sisters who risk everything for their homeland during World War II. Our members loved this book. Some comments: A heart-wrenching read that is full of tenderness, resilience, courage, brutality, and devotion. The author did a great job of opening our eyes to the hardships of living through Nazi occupation Salazar demonstrated how strong the bonds of sisters, family, and friends are in a powerful way. This story is told from the perspective of a young teenage girl and how innocence is lost through the actions necessary to fight the evil that ripped her country apart. We were unfamiliar with the occupation of the Netherlands and learned about their struggle with starvation and freezing during the last years of the war. We couldn’t imagine girls getting involved with the resistance and what they were willing to do for their country. We all felt the guilt that Lien carried throughout her life over her little sister's death and the catalyst that was for her to join the resistance. We loved the epilogue and the closure it gave us about all of the character

Literary Lovelies, Yonkers, New York; Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut: CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut
THE VILLA by Rachel Hawkins(St. Martin's Press, 1/23)
A gothic suspense novel set at an Italian villa with a dark history.

Literary Lovelies:" We all loved the book! This book has books within the book!”-“We discussed both storylines and if we found ourselves drawn to one story or the other. Susan loved the dual timelines and thought the Mari storyline felt like a movie! We also discussed whether we saw that Mark and Chess were together. A lot of people had thoughts on Chess! We decided she was either a Love or hate character. We also discussed if you have to like the characters to like a book. Chelsey thought the book reminded her of Rachel’s other books and talked about her distinct writing style. We loved how easy it was to read, and enjoyed the epistolary chapters that enhanced the story. We felt the book wrapped up a little quickly and we wished that Emily had stood up for herself a little more! But the Italy location was a favorite of ours as well as the slight gothic style of the Mari plot line. We recommend THE VILLA to clubs that enjoy dual timelines in beautiful settings! Thank you so much for this opportunity!"

Menu: "We meet virtually, but enjoyed some limoncello while reading the book! Emily and Chess are a little over-served on limoncello their first night in Italy."

CT Lit Book Club: This book had us in a heated discussion about what we would do if we were in the main character’s situation. We found ourselves in a coffee shop yelling about dead husbands and realized we probably should put our books on the tabble so other patrons see we are actually discussing a book!!
“We were excited to preview a Rachel Hawkins title! The majority of us have read THE WIFE UPSTAIRS and RECKLESS GIRLS, along with some of her Erin Sterling books.
We had high expectations for THE VILLA, as it is highly anticipated by the bookstagram community. Overall, we expected it to be more ‘thrilling’, but we enjoyed it and were enthralled wondering what was going to end up happening and how the two stories of what took place at the villa were going to bridge together. One member described her reading experience as the story ‘always having an air of suspicion to keep her intrigued.’ We really loved the setting of the villa in Italy and loved the throwbacks to the 70s! We recommend this book to those that enjoy drama, and books like BIG LITTLE LIES.’

Reckless Readers: "Everyone loved the book, rating it Hawkins’s best yet!"- “This is our second GalleyMatch for a Rachel Hawkins book, and we were very excited! Most members read THE VILLA in two sittings We could not wait to rant about the characters we hated, dissect the twists, and gush over the amazing setting. There was a lot of early chatter in the week before our meeting — those that finished it early could not wait to have our discussion.

The level of betrayal among friends was the biggest discussion. We loved the setting, the dual timelines, and the parallels between them. The twists were nonstop and unexpected, which kept us page-turning. The dual timelines made the story. Going from Emily & Chess presently staying at the Villa, to Mari in 1974, the reader gets the full picture of what really happened at The Villa Aestas. Both stories have parallels that are frightening. It seems that you can’t stay at the Villa without it taking someone from you. There are love triangles, friendship deceits, thrilling reveals, and murder to fit everyone’s appetite. It’s dark and atmospheric in ways we have never seen from Rachel Hawkins. She packed so many surprises into this book, but the last chapter is the biggest. There was a hot debate among the group on whether that last chapter was even necessary. How many twists are too many? We recommend if you enjoy big twisty thrillers that grip you until the end —add it to your preorder list! It's out in January, and will be on everyone’s hot list for 2023!"

Menu: “Italian lemon theme to match book: lemon basil pasta salad, lemon ricotta hot cheese dip, limoncello cocktails.”

Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Riverside Readers, Plain City, Ohio; Amy's Book Club, Boulder Colorado
A LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Melissa Payne (Lake Union, 2022)
An emotional and suspenseful novel about the weight of secrets and the healing power of friends and family.

Riverside Readers: “We loved the Ohio setting and although Crystal was a made-up town, we have been to similar small towns and could picture the intent while we read. We appreciated the fun and quirky characters with a hint of underlying mystery in the book. don't know. We discussed the small town, the stereotypes, and the reality, not all small towns in Ohio are like that but we knew why the author picked to use the stereotypical poor/mining town in Appalachia. The timelines coordinated well together with the flashbacks. The characters of the small town were unique and we liked how they interacted with each other—they balanced the trauma. The reader's guide for this book was great. Thank you! We love being introduced to new authors and this time it helped build a new small community of readers, as this is a new book club."

Amy's Book Club: "The setting drew us in, the characters moved us, and the story had us in its grip —and caused many of us to stay up way too late reading. Everyone loved the characters and felt invested in their stories, and wanted to know more about some of the more peripheral characters. We discussed, justice, bullies getting away with things, whether the law is involved or not, and how the town changed regarding violence toward the LGBTQIA+ community. We discussed the repetition of ‘running’ at the beginning and how it would have felt to be Vega just trying to escape and survive; the town dynamics and why it was mostly accepted that the Harrisons could bully who they pleased without repercussions — contrasted with the senseless shooting that took place the night before we met in Colorado Springs and whether we thought there would or could be justice.
We discussed which of the lovable/heroic characters we enjoyed the most and whether Vega was a hero or a victim;, the pacing of how quickly Vega developed community in Crystal, secrets and why they should be kept or told; our reactions to Vega checking Instagram and our internal screamings at her of what we wanted her to do, the town's support of Eve, and what would happen next for all of them. We recommend A LIGHT IN THE FOREST to book clubs that enjoy complicated relationships and a multi-decade mystery to unravel."

Melanie’s Book Club:" We loved the opportunity to preview A LIGHT IN THE FOREST. We are reading another Melissa Payne book this month, as a result! Everyone had positive comments and the book made for great conversation. One member who is stingy with book ratings gave our selection 5 stars. This is a thoughtful, well-written book that discusses real-life issues with great character development. A main discussion point was the different social issues addressed in the book and that the author didn't 'preach' about them. Our group has many teachers and nurses in it and this made an impact on us, especially since we see these issues in the lives of our students and patients. We appreciated the character development and that through the different points of view, we were able to put pieces of the puzzle together before Vega did, yet it didn’t take away from the mystery. This book is a must-read! We look forward to seeing if her other books have a similar writing style and theme."

Madame Woods Book Club of Wiscasset, Maine, and Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
THE WAYS WE HIDE, by Kristina McMorris (Sourcebooks, 2022)
A sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.Madame Woods: “This book changed the way some of our readers perceive historical fiction. We were amazed at the authors’ ability to weave real-life events into an intricate and complex story. McMorris grabbed our attention with her latest novel, based on true facts This character-driven novel has elements of romance and suspense with a bittersweet ending. The novel begins with the main character Fenna whose life was significantly shaped by a stampede on Christmas Eve. Her perseverance from childhood helped her maintain her determination and profound instinct to get through life’s challenges along the way. Fenna, an intelligent character, is shaped by life events and uses those experiences to maneuver through challenges. This novel has elements of history and fiction interwoven in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are right alongside the characters.
We discuss the intricacies of the story and how relatable the main character was. McMorris thoughtfully and seamlessly transitions from a story of romance, into a detail-oriented spy novel, and keeps the reader o n the edge of their seat in anticipation of what direction the story and characters would go next. She challenges the reader to keep up with current and past storylines, all while inserting historical events, distracting the reader - they are well intertwined into the characters' lives and the book’s storylines. THE WAYS WE HIDE offers a variety of themes that would appeal to a large readership. So many beautiful moments, even in the last chapters of the book, that offer a sweet and real conclusion.”Book Club Girls of Sparta: "We enjoyed reading about a part of history we did not know of.Most of us were unaware of the Dutch involvement in the resistance or hadn't heard of this chapter of history where women recruited into the resistance worked on inventing escape aids that were hidden in things like games, and the hiding of clues and maps in ordinary objects was interesting to learn about. The resounding takeaway was the fact that so many people risked everything to help the resistance, to help other humans stay safe. Many questioned whether they would be as brave, especially being a woman. We found the most connecting part of the story was Fennas; bravery, and fearlessness even though she had deep trauma from the fire. We recommend THE WAYS WE HIDE to groups interested in historical fiction about new pieces of World War III history and strong female protagonists."Menu: Tea and speculoos cookies.

Brunch & Books Club, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Literary Fires Everywhere, Cortland Manor, New York
THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center, (St. Martin's Press, 7/22)
A romantic and humorous romance about a bodyguard, and the movie star she's hired to protect, as they work to keep things professional under crazy circumstances

Brunch & Books: “We discussed the main character’s growth. Everyone enjoyed the love story, but seeing how the character grew into herself from start to finish was what really stood out. She gained confidence and self-respect that she didn’t have at the beginning and that really resonated with members. The discussion questions prompted a good conversation that brought to mind parts of the story we might not have discussed.
I Ioved this fun and funny book with every piece of my heart. It was my first Katherine Center novel and it felt as if I was sitting with a BFF listening to her tell e this hilarious and heartwarming story. 10/10! The Author’s Note alone is worth 5 stars. Don’t skip it! Recommended for those who enjoy funny, happy love stories! We’re so appreciative of the opportunity! “

Literary Fires Everywhere: "We all enjoyed this book. I am definitely not a regular rom-com reader— I usually find myself rolling my eyes at plots that make others swoon— but I really did love this book. It’s super cute, engaging, and the characters feel real. Even the setting popped right off the page! Definitely recommend grabbing this one!

Hannah has been hired to be a bodyguard to Jack, a Hollywood burnout who would prefer not to have a bodyguard. The pair have palpable chemistry, and I quickly found myself rooting for them. We are not huge romance readers and we’re all pleasantly surprised that it was both fluffy and deep, a un reads with a bit of drama. We all loved the touches and the author’s descriptions. (The Bush steak knives)."

Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado;  and Bookish Ladies,  Coto de Caza, California
HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese (St. Martin's Press, 10/4/22)
A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Get Woke: "HESTER’s message empowered us! As Laurie Lico Albanese writes, Hester Prynne is ‘a heroic woman who defies powerful men and vengeful villagers by wearing the symbol of her shame like a badge of courage.’ Heroic women! May we be them and may we raise them!”A major symbol, incorporating the books' themes, was  Isobel's sewing skill and her ability to design and stitch beautiful patterns and scenes that revealed emotions and contained hidden messages.
Each member of the book club was asked to bring a bottle of wine (or another beverage of choice), containing a label that could reflect a 'hidden' message or theme of the story. Our discussion involved each of the members presenting her wine and describing the label, revealing aspects of the novel. These included PROPHECY WINES— The label’s images relate to the supernatural world, and scenes with shooting stars. Isobel struggles to accept her power, and the woman on the label exhibits power.*TEMPTATION AND EVE—Depicts Eve tempting Adam. Isobel’s community shuns her as a witch when she becomes pregnant. EVE elicited discussion on the Bible story – Isobel notes its message about untrustworthy women. GNARLY HEAD WINES—summarizes many characters' mental states: Hawthorne struggles with his family history of witch trials. Isobel struggles with her artistic creations and powers. *KALEIDOSCOPE:— Isabel’s gift enables her to create beautiful designs and messages on clothing and understand others’ emotions. WITCHING HOUR: summarized the novel’s mystery, fantasy, excitement, and passion.
Menu: A ‘community rice bowl’ is symbolic of the support and encouragement women shared in the novel. Member brought ingredients. Along with the theme of wine, dessert bars were labeled ‘Primitive Nuts’: many characters reflect this title!
We  also shared a representation of each member’s name created by a woman with synesthesia.”
Ranch Readers: "We were intrigued by the premise of imagining the woman who inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's protagonist, Hester Prynne, in his iconic novel, THE SCARLET LETTER, In Hester, they meet -- Nathan is a young struggling writer, who is haunted by his ancestor's treatment of the witches of Salem. and Isobel is a young wife, who recently immigrated from Scotland, and has been deserted by an opium-addicted husband who left her destitute. Isobel supports herself by creating exquisite embroidery and also through the kindness of others in town. She has synesthesia-a sensory phenomenon in which she sees letters and sounds expressed in colors. Isobel learns at an early she to hide this ability so that she would not be called a witch, but she uses her extraordinary skill to create beautiful work. We agreed that the book's language was very descriptive and enthralling and we had a long discussion about our own creative processes that have enriched our life.

We thought character of 'Hathorne' -- what the author calls Hawthorne-- could have been developed a bit further as he seemed shallow and his treatment of Isobel seemed dismissive. The social issues of the time were well highlighted by the author with a concurrent story of the Witch Trials in Salem, the plight of fleeing saves using the Underground Railroad, the mistreatment and victimization of women who had no rights, the struggles of prejudice that immigrants face in America We enjoyed the novel and feel it is going to become a best seller - it was definitely a compelling read!

Menu: Bee-shaped tea cakes and chocolate and lemon lavender scones to enjoy with tea and coffee.

Bookish Ladies: "Everyone enjoyed the book and a fresh reboot of The Scarlet Letter. The author did a wonderful retelling and we loved the characters and the story. We had a great discussion and we’re so happy to have this fun experience. We highly recommend HESTER! One member loved the book so much that she took a trip to Salem - ok it was a brilliant coincidence that she was going there!"

Menu: "Many colorful vegetables mentioned in the book."

Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas and Cork and Olive Book Club, Valrico, Florida
HALF-BLOWN ROSE by Leesa-Cross Smith (Grand Central, 2022)
A novel about a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.

Famished for Fiction: “We had a great time discussing HALF-BLOWN ROSE! This book really stretched us!" We discussed infidelity quite a bit: some members felt that the current problem —the marriage— needed to be resolved before embarking on another adventure—a relationship with Loup. We discussed that Vincent and Loup being independently wealthy contributed to their ability to just 'do as they pleased'. Vincent runs off to Paris; she and Loup travel by train to visit Theo, and family. Her family’s laid-back attitude when she shows up with Loup is a bit shocking; but, put into the context of their family, it made sense. SPOILER ALERT: We felt the ending left questions unanswered...maybe a sequel is in the plans? We would love to know if Vincent will return to Cillian, stay with Loup or go out on her own. We felt she was d searching for her freedom by leaving Kentucky and fleeing to Paris; but, in the end, becomes more tied down with the pregnancy. We recommend this book to those who enjoy Paris, romance, art, and secrets."Menu: We loved that the novel was set in Paris so we met at a French restaurant, Toulouse Cafe & Bar for quiche, Toulouse salad, lobster rolls, lobster risotto, and rose-themed drinks: French 77 and Rose all-day punch."

Cork and Olive: We looked forward to HALF-BLOWN ROSE, as we enjoyed Leesa’s novel THIS CLOSE TO OKAY and this did not disappoint! We enjoy her writing style—a phenomenal writer!” There was much discussion about whether Vincent should have led her husband on, whether it was wrong for her to be with Loup before a decision about her marriage, and whether she should have reached out to Tully and his mother. No one liked Cillian's actions and would have preferred Vincent to end her marriage if she was going to go be with someone else. We discussed Vincent's relationship with her children and the growing relationship with Tully, who we loved. There was concern that Vincent spent more time on Tully with her children, although we know that she loved them - she just didn't share as much of herself with them. We all want an epilogue!! We agreed that we needed to know what Vincent decided. Some hoped she kicked both Cillian and Loop to the curb, stayed in Paris, and raised the baby herself. Some thought she might have both... We loved that she decided to just do whatever she felt— eat pastries, sleep during the day, do whatever her spirit felt, while she proces

sed this punch in the gut to her life.
We enjoyed the references to food, art, books, and music. It was SO brilliant that Leesa created Vincent's Spotify playlists. We were delighted to see videos and references to characters on @anchoismusic. What a great way to bring the book to life! C'est bon bon bon! We recommend this novel to those who enjoy travel, art, and passion.”

Menu: "Our menu featured foods referenced —wonderfully varied and not all French! Cranberry Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Chickpea Stew, Fig Jam and Cheese with crackers, Rosemary Flatbread with Hummus and Olives, Pain au Chocolat, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and of course, Champagne!

Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Literary Lovelies of Yonkers, New York Junior League of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Finer Things Book Club of Brentwood, California
THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman (Kensington, 8/22)
The story about the Willowbrook State School, the Staten Island mental institution that shocked a nation when exposed in the 1970s as a dumping ground for unwanted children.

Sensational Seven: "We are fortunate to read this new novel from a favorite author! Once again, Ms. Wiseman has so eloquently written about another of our nation’s past social injustices. We compared our strong responses to the novel with other books with difficult topics. She has shed light on a piece of our history that is so important to learn about. Her take on Willowbrook through the eyes of sixteen-year-old, Sage Winters, was a riveting ‘page-turner.’ When Sage discovers her twin sister, Rosemary, was alive and had been institutionalized for years at Willowbrook; she courageously heads to the school to rescue her. We discussed our emotional responses in realizing that these atrocities occurred in our lifetime and in our country Our discussion centered on how the children’s parents felt after learning the truth of events at the ‘school.’ We were sad and horrified over Willowbrook, and had for the staff and media who were crucial to its closure. We felt grateful for the advancement in care and treatment of the mentally ill and incapacitated members of our society today.”

Menu: "Our take on related food/drink: White chicken chili, representing the colorless mush that residents at Willowbrook were served daily. We also drank Tequila Sunrises, a popular cocktail in 1972, using orange juice. In the novel, the nurses mixed medication in orange juice to keep the residents sedated. No meds were used by our book club- only tequila and grenadine in the OJ!”

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “We enjoy historical fiction and mystery and this was the best of both worlds!”Some members recently toured a State Hospital in Michigan and were able to compare what they learned with Willowbrook. Ellen Marie Wiseman joined us via Zoom to answer questions about how she researched the book and where the ideas came from— including the big twist. It was especially fun because she had been at the memorial at Willowbrook the day before and was able to tell us about meeting some of the doctors and attendants who helped to blow the whistle, per se. We discussed society during this time, and why it was often recommended for parents to place children in a place like Willowbrook. We discussed how parents could see their child in that state, not say anything- many of us agreed that during that time, people deferred to 'authority’ and took the doctors at their word. Today, parents question and challenge authority, especially when it comes to doctors and teachers. We agreed this was one of the saddest stories we had heard and had time wrapping our heads around the fact that while it’s a fictional story the setting, conditions, and many of the characters were real. We also didn’t see the twist coming (Ellen said that even her editor didn’t see that one!).”

Menu: "Pancakes and bacon, a build-your-own-oatmeal bar, and orange juice —spiked with champagne instead of sedatives, as in the book."

Literary Lovelies: "This was truly a fascinating book that led to a great discussion about mental health. We couldn't believe it was based on a true story! We all loved this fascinating story, and it was heartbreaking to know it was based on a real situation. The subject matter was difficult but we all enjoyed the historical fiction and somewhat true crime genre in this well-written and detailed novel. Wiseman graphically describes the school, where employees brutalize and demean their residents. It’s after a reporter sneaks into the facility— the journalist is Geraldo Rivera, who was instrumental in getting the facility rehabbed and shut down —that light is shed on these inhumane conditions. We discussed the women brought to this facility, mental health, and the management of those needing special care. It was terrible that couldn’t speak up for themselves, and that no one ever checked on them This dark and gritty story will stay with us for a long time—it was so interesting and led to a fabulous discussion. This is my first time reading this author and I will be looking for more of her books."⁣

Elizabeth's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas; Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey; North Wales Area Public Library; Pennsylvania
WHEN WE LET GO  by Rochelle Weinstein

A novel about mothers and daughters, loss and acceptance, the lessons that come from heartbreak, and the healing it takes to embrace the joy of a second chance.Elizabeth’s Book Chat: "A wonderful match We had a very lively discussion with author Rochelle Weinstein and the book was so well received. Everyone loved it! There were different elements of the story that each of us could relate to which made it even more interesting. The author's style of writing is genuine and heartfelt. As we read the words on the page, we also were able to actually feel the emotions. What was very interesting was when members asked Rochelle where the idea for the tree came from. The response kept everyone chatting for a while. Great interaction!”
Menu: Charcuterie board, lemon cake, and wine

Book Club Girls Sparta: “A new author to us, and this moving story was enjoyed by all. Many could relate to the protagonist's profound level of loss and trauma and how one moment in her young life altered her future relationships with those closest to her. Trauma, grief, mother-daughter, sister, family, forgiveness, strength, and courage were all key factors that resonated with our readers. We discussed the importance of self-care and women surrounding themselves with people they can trust and open up to, and give themselves permission to move on and heal. We enjoyed the mother/ daughter theme. Read this moving novel if you are looking for a story of mothers, daughters, first love, second chances, and the powerful bond of sisters. “

 

Menu: "Wine and chocolate for self-care, a summer picnic with farm-to-table foods, lemonade, tea, and homemade fruit pies, based on Avery's garden and farm."
North Wales Area Library Book Club: “A big THANK YOU! This book was excellent! The believable characters drew readers in, and the settings were easy to picture. Several interesting relationships and ways of dealing with loss were explored. It was a well-built novel with interesting situations about dealing with grief, family relationships, and trust."

Over-Readers Anonymous of Cumming, Georgia, Reckless Readers of Eastford, Connecticut, Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, Wine Club with a Book Problem, Woodstock, Georgia
OVERKILL by Sandra Brown (Grand Central, 8/22)
A crime thriller in which a conflict of conscience between a former football star and an ambitious state prosecutor swiftly intensifies into a fight for their lives.

Reckless Readers: "OVERKILL satisfied the thriller need, romance desire, and contemplative fiction we all love. It was an excellent book club book that sparked much conversation: the question of whether or not we would want to stay alive, or if we could actually pull the plug ourselves on a loved one, after being in a coma with no brain activity. The characters had moral and religious struggles with this choice, and we empathized with them. We loved the spicy romance in the book —with much discussion about how much more of it everyone wanted—as well as the direction of the story. Eban’s character sent us on another heated conversation about entitlement and the evils that wealth can add to an already evil person’s being. Sandra Brown did an excellent job of making us hate him, and kept us page-turning hoping for a better outcome. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy a little romance in their thriller, and heavy discussion points."

Menu: "Our drink—the Blue Overkill (vodka blue Curacao, and pineapple juice) was tasty, like Zach, and packed a punch like Kate. Paired with charcuterie."

Over-Readers Anonymous: “We recommend OVERKILL for those who enjoy crime fiction, suspense thrillers, and contemporary issues with a little romance thrown in! Our book club has enjoyed several Sandra Brown novels, they're entertaining and also touch on issues that lead to a deeper discussion. We discussed the ethical dilemma at the foundation of OVERKILL and delved into medical ethics, end-of-life planning, the characters, the plot, the judicial system, and the celebrity spotlight. As we all have roots in the south, we liked the Atlanta, New Orleans, and North Carolina settings. OVERKILL was action-packed and easy-to-read."

Menu: “As a BBQ menu was suggested by the author, met at a local restaurant for pulled pork!." (see Sandra Brown's recipe)

Book Club Girls: "An enjoyable read with developed characters an incredible, setting, and suspense well paced throughout the book.  We discussed what we would do if faced with the same situation as Zach even though none of our members have had to face this situation. What many of us thought should have been a clear-cut choice, as we wove through the narrative we came to understand that there were so many layers to this that came into play that it wasn't as simple as we believed in the beginning. The most hated character was the villain Eban and although he is fictional, we agreed there are real people in the world like him. When you are so wealthy that you can make so many disastrous choices as a human with no consequences was highlighted. What would have happened to someone else who wasn't as wealthy? Also, we all agreed that no one really thought about Rebecca, until they were forced to, which led us to agree it was unacceptable for her to continue to be victimized in a way for so very long. But, if she was allowed to let go in the beginning, there wouldn't be as much of a plot line for the book. Loved the premise of the story, it gave lots of topics for discussion.

Menu: "We recommend bbq, pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, and any tailgating type of foods that would be a nod to North Carolina and football."

Wine Club with a Book Problem: "OVERKILL is a good thought-provoking story. The topic of life support and having your affairs in order gave us a good discussion, and we enjoyed the setting of Atlanta since we live in the area. Former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Zach Bridger has MPA for his ex-wife, Rebecca, who has been placed on life support after a violent assault. Zach has kept Rebecca on life support for 4 years to honor her parent's wishes. The attacker, Eban, gets an early release from prison and Kate Lennon, a brilliant state prosecutor, is determined to put him back behind bars. If Rebecca were to die, Eban could be retried on a new charge: murder. Zach is asked to make an impossible choice: keep her on life support or take her off and put Eban back in prison. We discussed that no one really thought about Rebecca. Zach was concerned about how he would be portrayed by the media, her father keeping her alive to punish Zach, and Eban boasting how his father's money got him out of prison early and now he can bet back to partying. It was unacceptable to keep Rebecca on life-support for so long.

Menu: "There are many football analogies and football references throughout the book. We put together a Tailgate Football Menu: Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Balsamic Fig Infused Burger Bites, Wings, Homemade Salsa & Chips plus Guacamole, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Pizza Pepper Poppers."

Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; CT Lit, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Kings Chapel Book Club  Arrington, Tennessee,
ALL MY RAGE by Sabaa Tahir (Penguin Teen, 3/22)

A contemporary novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents.

Reading Between the Wines: "We all enjoyed the book and thought the author did a wonderful job of creating flawed and 'real' characters that we grew to care about."This was a great match for our club. Our discussion included immigrants' struggles to preserve their culture while trying to achieve the American Dream, the nature of generational trauma, the opioid crisis, and the role of faith in people's lives- so many things to discuss! We became invested in the characters of Noor and Sal and the traumatic events that they and their families, experienced impacted us, and provided a lot of jumping-off points for discussion. Watching their growth throughout the novel gave it a hopeful ending. We loved this book and were fully invested in these characters, and reading it was a very emotional journey. Recommended to clubs that enjoy books discussing contemporary themes, strong characters, and emotional reads.

Menu: We met at a local Indian/Pakistani restaurant to enjoy food discussed and eaten in the novel: chai tea, poori, halwa, Chicken Kashmiri, and paratha, among other dishes!

Page Ladies: “We went in expecting a contemporary story about friendship and forgiveness but what we got was so much more. Thank you, Sabaa Tahir, for sharing this devastating but absolutely beautiful story with us! This is a powerful story that affected each of us differently. It's one that will stay with us for a long time. Until The Fight Salahudin and Noor were more than friends; they were family. Now, Sal is struggling with keeping his family's motel afloat as his mother's health fails and his father loses himself to alcoholism. Meanwhile, Noor is working at her uncle's liquor store and hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him and Juniper forever. Sal and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst. This is an emotional and moving story about friendship, forgiveness, and heartache; it’s like taking a deep dive into a pool full of emotions. Grief, betrayal and forgiveness, loss, rage— you will feel every single one and more in this book. No one from our book club was able to finish this book with dry eyes. There are so many topics that were brought up and all were not easy to discuss: death, drugs, prejudice, and physical abuse. The writing is absolutely wonderful—Sabaa Tahir is a fabulous storyteller. She has a way with words that touches each of her readers.“

Get Woke Book Club “Members arrived with books displaying colorful post-it tabs, which visually reflected the common greeting, 'there is so much to think about in this novel!A group of mothers and grandmothers very much enjoyed the novel by a young adult author and its detailed and realistic picture of the struggles that immigrants face in relocating to the United States and of the family traditions and secrets that follow the immigrants to their new home. The culture and religious traditions of Pakistan were vividly described in an engaging storyline and beautiful prose. The main plot follows the lives of two Pakistani teens, who are struggling with school, personal tragedies, and love. They are surrounded by other well-drawn characters who add depth to the story. We discussed the many plot lines and themes: diversity, forgiveness, hope, family relationships, communication, secrecy, and loss. Tahir fills the novel with music, probably an excellent technique for adolescent readers—they can easily relate to the messages and emotions through familiar songs.  Noor uses songs and their lyrics to help cope with the conflicts in her life. 

Members shared selfies with short reflections:  “Music plays a role in helping us deal with life’s adversities.*  When is a relationship worth salvaging?  *Fortunately forgiveness does not have an expiration date. It waits and always hopes to be the last word. *Peeling through the complicated layers of life we can see, appreciate and begin to understand one another. * One of my favorite quotes ‘Great passions grow into monsters in the dark of the mind; but if you share them with loving friends they remain human, they can be endured.’ * Tahir effectively introduces sections with lines from  Elizabeth Bishop's poem, “One Art.  Many characters ‘lost’ things: family, money, businesses, dignity. A lesson we all may need is that losing isn’t always bad.: 'the art of losing’s not too hard to master’ *While keeping a secret is meant to protect someone at some point, keeping that secret might be doing more harm.”

CT Lit Book Club: "We’ve been exploring new genres, and we enjoyed ALL MY RAGE, a heartbreaking story that touches on a lot of sensitive topics which gave us plenty to discuss.ALL MY RAGE introduced us to Pakistani culture. This young adult story follows two Pakistani teens growing up in a small town in California and the grim realities of their American dream. Even through difficult times their cultural norms held them together as a family, even if not by blood, the young adult characters are each facing their own struggles—the death of a loved one, racism, alcoholism, drugs, abuse— they are navigating grief, failure, and forgiveness, and must ultimately lean on one another to make sense of the chaos they are facing. It was shocking to imagine our younger selves in situations like these and we spent time reflecting on how the kids navigated various situations. One that stood out is how Salahudin and Noor dealt with the drug bust, and how their relationship persevered. We also discussed how Salahudin came to terms with his abuse. We recommend ALL MY RAGE for clubs learning about other cultures, family drama, and historical fiction."

Kings Chapel: “Thank you for the chance to read this insightful novel. We had a fabulous discussion and I think it was good to read outside our usual genres. This is a heart-wrenching story about two teens from Pakistani families living in Juniper, California, dealing with tough circumstances, basically all by themselves. We don’t read much YA, It was out of the comfort zone for most of the ladies. but the tough topics represented in this story, such as grief, alcoholism, physical abuse, and racism, were easier to handle in the Young Adult format. Understanding why the characters made the choices they did was something we discussed quite a bit. As teens, they made decisions that were wrong but for the right reasons and it was interesting to get in the minds of these teens and try to understand why. As parents, it was hard to read at times, feeling so sad for these kids who have had such a hard life. But seeing them grow and learn from mistakes and stand up for others, gave the book a nice redemption quality in the end. Recommended for groups that enjoy YA coming of age and social justice." 



Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut, Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
Lit Ladies Read, Melbourne, Florida; Thrillers by The Book / Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
Thrillers by The Book / Costa Mesa, California, CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut recommend:
THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur 7/22)
Paris Peralta is suspected of killing her celebrity husband, and her long-hidden past now threatens to destroy her future.

Reckless Readers: An excellent match! Everyone was excited to talk about the twists. We had much to discuss with THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK. Members were messaging before we met, needing to talk about the book as they were finishing it. It was like a month-long meeting, behind the scenes! Usually, if continuous discussion is prompted, the book was a hit. To say the book was twisty is an understatement. This book was twisty than a country back road! A few of us seasoned readers predicted the big twists, but most of us were surprised and shocked. Together, we all needed to unload about the horrendous mothering and terrible situations that Joey was put in throughout her childhood. All of the women in our group are mothers, which makes the book hit us so much harder. But the book wasn’t just about sexual abuse and trauma. There is a high-profile murder that could potentially unearth secrets that need to be kept hidden. The conversation got animated when we discussed Joelle's charge with murder, and there was much discussion about the relationship between Ruby and Joey. As mothers, we found it hard to imagine how Ruby could treat Joey the way she did and put her in such horrible situations. It was heartbreaking and disturbing ."

Chilly Thrillies: “Thank you for giving our group the gift of a 5-star read, a perfect match! We were engaged from start to finish and loved how much there was to discuss. It had the thrills of a book with great character development and storyline. We discussed narcissism and how it affects relationships, specifically parent-child, how the way you are raised affects your instincts and perspective of others, fight or flight and how we would react in certain scenarios in the book, sexual abuse, and its long-term effects, age gap relationships and how people can be evil, but the 'lesser evil.’ We debated which storyline in the dual timeline was more action-packed—something hard to accomplish. Normally, we’re more interested in one storyline, We each were able to predict one of the twists, but we're stumped on the others and loved that there was more than one twist revealed. I was so impressed, I read Hillier’s JAR OF HEARTS. Recommended for those who enjoy a page-turning thriller with complex characters that you root for."

Menu: We made a Filipino Chicken Adobo recipe similar to what Paris makes towards the end of the book (she used pork instead of chicken). We were inspired by her description of how learning to cook was so special when she was going through such a dark time.

Lit Ladies Read: “We enjoyed this twisty, thriller/mystery. and had a very lively discussion! We had so much to discuss. We enjoyed the storytelling, shifting between past and present. and different points of view. This really helped to fully develop the characters. Although some predicted twists, we were still engrossed in the story and wanted to see how things played out.
“Our discussion centered around the characters and their relationships. One of our favorites was that between Jimmy and Paris and the highlight of our discussion was the relationship between Paris/Joey and Ruby. We disagreed about how adult Paris should have handled Ruby and decided that we had to agree to disagree about our feelings towards Paris, but we all agreed that this book was a hit for our group. The mystery is multi-layered, with deep characters. Many members put other books by this author on their ‘to be read’ list."

Thrillers by the Book Club, DFW: "This was our best GalleyMatch, perfect for our group and for book clubs that like dark and twisted mysteries“We all loved how the book started with a very intriguing and captivating scene Joey’s background was very interesting and her relationship with her mother was so toxic. There are a few mysteries in the story. Besides trying to find out if Paris murdered her husband, we’re also trying to work out Paris’ past, how did she go from living with an abusive unstable mother, who is now in prison, to living a wealthy life married to a famous celebrity? I enjoyed Paris’ past the most I loved the intensity in the chapters that focused on Paris’ childhood and upbringing. Ruby, her mother, was such an intriguing and complex character—a terrible mother, self-centered and irresponsible, which caused Paris a lot of pain and uncertainty. While a few members predicted the twist, it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of this dark and suspenseful story.”

Thrillers by The Book, Costa Mesa: “This was an excellent pick for our club! The majority liked or loved this one! Some said it was one of their favorite picks of the year. Many of the members enjoyed the mystery of learning about the murderer in the end, and the alternating timelines of the female main character. There were a variety of opinions about who committed the crime.”

CT Lit Book Club: "This was the perfect match for us! We have been craving a thriller and this was on all of our anticipated release lists. We all enjoyed the book, and were so excited to have a chance to preview it! We discussed how jam-packed this book was with plot points. There was much to hold your attention and give you room to try and predict what would happen. We loved how creative Hillier is— there is one scene in specific that was so creative and will leave us remembering the book forever! (hint hint, ice skates). Half of us had read another book by Hillier, and we all agreed that we want to read more Hiller titles."


The Ladies of Autumnwood, Grand Isle, New York, Mom and I Book Club of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, r
ecommend:

THE MATCHMAKER'S GIFT BY Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin's Press, 9/20/22)
 An intergenerational story about two women—a grandmother and granddaughter—who share the same incredible gift: the ability to identify soulmates

The Ladies of Autumnwood: We loved THE MATCHMAKER’S GIFT! Reading about Raskin’s pickles and the knish shops brought back wonderful memories of shopping at a pickle store in lower Manhattan barrels with barrels on the sidewalk and enjoying a great knish. These memories, among other topics, helped to round out our animated discussion last night. Members didn’t know much about ‘yentas’ or matchmakers and their role in creating Jewish courtship relations. We enjoyed learning about the bravery of the young girl, who beyond the fact that she was Jewish opened our eyes to the challenges of women, not unlike what some have to endure to break that glass ceiling today."
Menu: “We enjoyed Challah and red wine, and took home jars of pickles that I designed with a Raskin’s label.”

My Mom and I: “This pick was perfection. Not only did it match our love of magical realism but we agreed it’s the best book we’ve read this year. You found the perfect book for us!”
“We discussed magic, love, strong women, lovable characters, and the absolute beauty of the writing. We recommend this book to those who enjoy magical realism, foodie fiction, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. The author wrote a book that we treasure and we’re raving about it to everyone. This is a book that you feel like hugging at the end. We absolutely loved it. It’s a gem! “

Menu: "A smorgasbord! We had a blast capturing foods mentioned in the book lox and capers, cornichons— we decorated pickle jars with ‘The Pickle King’, as in the book. We had magical color-changing butterfly tea, as we wanted some magic to go with the story, and chocolate babka for dessert, like our beloved characters baked.

St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri;  Mom and I Book Club, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania;  Pittsford Moms Book Club, Pittsford, New York, and Port Wine and Book Society Readers, Port Washington, Wisconsin recommend:
OTHER BIRDS by Sarah Addison Allen (St Martins, Press, 8/30/22)
A novel about a young woman who claims her deceased mother's apartment in an island town, where she meets she meets quirky and secretive neighbors.

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: "A great match! We felt like this was the perfect mix of themes, giving us questions and a variety of topics to discuss. Having an arc made us feel like ‘VIPs’ to the publishing process. This novel was cozy, nostalgic, and heartfelt! Allen’s characters help redefine the word ‘family’ in the most beautiful way. We discussed the definition of home and chosen family, food as a love language —and inspiration for potlucks for book club!! The setting—so realistic and magical, the imagery of the birds and the meaning. OTHER BIRDS takes you on a magical journey of youth, delicately balancing both beauty and sadness. We recommend this book to clubs who are fans of magical realism. It was fuzzy, cozy --the perfect happy read."

Menu: "We made amazing foods to match the book: cornmeal air-fried tomatoes, potato chips on Hawaiian rolls, Mac & cheese, cornbread, Palomas, and marshmallow popcorn."

My Mom and I: "Thank you for a rare opportunity to preview our favorite author’s new book! Sarah Addison Allen's first novel GARDEN SPELLS introduced us to our favorite genre, magical realism. I saved the book for the perfect moment and then tore into it. After waiting eight years for her new book I knew I’d read it too quickly and, that’s what happened We are Italian and loved the ‘found family’ theme and 'food is love' philosophy running through the novel. We enjoyed the foodie talk, animals, ghosts, and magical elements. All characters and storylines were interesting and mysterious; sometimes beautiful, but sometimes ugly but always interesting. Several big reveals had us slack-jawed!

While OTHER BIRDS is a little sadder and darker than her previous works, the magic and the love and the beauty left the reader with a love of the characters and a belief that as the characters live beyond 'the end' of the book all turned out well for them. And you will want that because you will be left loving nearly everything about OTHER BIRDS! We recommend this to those who like magical realism and foodie fiction."

Menu: "Cornmeal marshmallow dishes based on a character: Fluffernutters (marshmallow whip and peanut butter sandwiches), tamale pie stuffed peppers, cornmeal sugar cookies, and marshmallow-flavored lip balm as a keepsake."

Pittsford Moms: "We had so much fun with OTHER BIRDS! We loved this found family story and all the special characters! The novel was a good fit for our club. We try to switch up genres/authors and most members like books with some magic realism elements. We felt it was an easy read and generally flew through the book - Thanks! kept our attention. We loved the story of found family, the characters, and their backgrounds. Books with paranormal/magic realism can be hit or miss for most members but they worked well with this story and added background and historical context for many of the characters. We had a great discussion about the twists and the characters' diverse backgrounds— we would have liked a little more depth to some characters that had very traumatic backgrounds. We recommend OTHER BIRDS to groups that enjoy a touch of magic realism and found family stories!”

Menu: "S’mores bars— the story takes place on Marsh Island and all restaurants in town have something marshmallow on their menu.” 

Port Wine and Book Society: "A great match for our club! We recommend this enchanting story written from the heart, with interesting characters and subplots.”Zoey was such a delightful, open and honest young character— we all adored her. We liked how the story unfolded by hearing different characters' viewpoints in each chapter. The Dellawisps added fun and interest, some of us thought they may have stolen Charlotte's money.  We loved the descriptions of Mallow Island - we live in a small tourist town in Wisconsin and really identified with that. The highlighted passages in Lizbeth’s copy of Sweet Mallow were ironic because she didn't live her life according to any of them - she was so stuck in the past it literally killed her. We enjoyed a unique story, quirky characters, and the theme of food as friendship/love."

Menu: “The detail around food was great! We  made several dishes with corn or cornmeal to celebrate it: Polenta and shrimp, fresh corn salad, corn dip and corn chips, and popcorn.”

CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; KU Endowment, Lawrence, Kansas; and Girls Clubhouse, Auburn, California recommend
MIRROR GIRLS by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 2/22)
A gothic horror novel about twin sisters separated across the color line after the murder of their parents (YA historical fiction/  magical realism/fantasy).

CT Lit: “MIRROR GIRLS was a great discussion starter and the perfect book to read with a group. It took us out of our comfort zone and was eye-opening, a reminder that segregation is not so far in the past. We are transported to the South—and blatant racism —which as a group of white women living in Connecticut, we don't have experience with. We follow twin sisters Magnolia and Charlie, separated at birth—one raised as Black in New York City and one raised as white-passing in the Deep South— who learn the secret everyone has kept from them. The novel portrayed how indoctrinated people were, and in some cases ready to push racism aside when it would benefit them. We discussed how Charlie's view on life differs after growing up in the more liberal Harlem and compared it to growing up in Connecticut and traveling in different areas in the United States. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy Brit Bennett's THE VANISHING HALF.”

Page Ladies: "We all enjoyed this historical fiction with a paranormal twist that is both heartbreaking and beautiful. The book offered many different topics, generating a nice discussion: the time period, the girls as individuals, their different upbringings and when they came together, the decision to separate them and not tell them about each other, and much more! A wonderful story about twin girls Charlie and Magnolia who were separated after their parents died for love across the color line and have no idea the other exists. Magnolia. raised in Georgia, is the white heiress to a cotton plantation. Charlie, raised in Harlem with her Nana, is a young Black organizer. When Charlie's grandmother falls ill, they return to Georgia. When the girls do meet Magnolia discovers her reflection has disappeared. They couldn’t be more different, but they will need each other to put the hauntings of the past to rest, break the mirrors’ deadly curse, and discover the meaning of sisterhood in a racially divided land. Seeing the girls come together to create that sisterly bond was wonderful, as is the writing, and pacing. The curse and the ghosts added an interesting twist to the story.”

Girls Clubhouse: "We all enjoyed MIRROR GIRLS and we tried to capture the supernatural aspect of the book with mirror images” Charlie and Magnolia both born in the South but separated at birth live separate lives but face the double threat of racism and ghosts. We discussed how ‘Colored Town ‘is equally foreign to both girls, despite being born there; contrasting with where they were each raised. Magnolia knows the rules of the general area, while Charlie knows how things are done —how stories are told, some traditions. The concept of the veil as the place between this world and the afterlife was used by the author also as the place between the white world and the colored world, which made this gothic story much more intriguing than if it had been singularly used. This forces both girls to examine who they are and what they are willing to live with. Members enjoy supernatural books, and the idea of ghosts to help guide the characters was appealing. We found it to be a ‘light’ supernatural read. We recommend to clubs who enjoy gothic young adult novels."

KU Endowment: "Everyone loved the book. Some members were pleasantly surprised by the way supernatural elements were combined with social commentary and realistic events. The author was able to shine a light on the atrocities of slavery and segregation without being heavy-handed and shows us a playbook for fighting back through the strong and determined sisters, Charlie and Magnolia. The past can haunt us but that doesn't mean it has to control us, and love will conquer hate. One member discussed the book with her 86-year-old mother, who shared memories of her experiences during segregation. We all felt hopeful and inspired by the book and loved the characters. We talked about what it would be like not to know your origins and what would inspire someone to fight against things they know are wrong when it could cost them everything. We recommend to those that enjoy strong characters, historical fiction, and being inspired."

The Revivals Book Club The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas; Zoom-Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma
THE CICADA TREE by Robert Gwaltney, Jr.
A novel about an 11-year-old, whisky-drinking, piano prodigy who encounters a wealthy family of supernatural beauty.

The Revivals: “Have we missed out on a genre of remarkable books or were we gifted a gem in a genre we might not have read? The debut novel THE CICADA TREE soared to the top of the 2022 best reads. We dare you not to highlight dozens of richly written sentences; our galleys are filled with colorful post-it notes. The discussion questions gave deeper insight into the themes and allegories we hadn’t considered. We agreed that the book fit into genres of southern gothic, magical realism, and coming-of-age. We explored biblical allegories: good and evil, Jesus, John the Baptist, Cain and Abel, plague, water, and fire. Once every 13 years, the cicadas emerge in tremendous numbers to mate and disrupt human life and comfort; some believe they hold our secrets. Gwaltney has a gift for bringing all together in an unforgettable book appealing to multiple genres and readers. We discussed how music and the song of the Cicadas featured prominently, and the writing allowed us to hear the music as the book’s climax approached. There are themes of coming-of-age, transformation, and rebirth. Gwaltney poetically foreshadows the storyline early as the story’s protagonist, a typical tween experiencing growing pains, insecurity, and self-recrimination sheds her childhood as a cicada does. Triumphing over evil, the novel reaches an angelic and lyrical end. There are as many ways to love this book as there are to interpret it–we dare you to read it! We all loved this novel.”

Menu: Iced Tea, Autumn Apple & Feta Salad, Watermelon Salad, Feta, Mint; Skillet Cheddar Cornbread, Southern Pecan Praline Cookies, Coffee on a garden patio.

Zoom-Chilly Thrillies: We had a great time reading and discussing THE CICADA TREE, a wonderful match that pushed us out of our comfort zone, with its unique blend of genres— historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. This was a unique story! We agreed it was unpredictable and gave much to discuss. Some words members shared to describe the writing style and story were: Gothic, descriptive, imaginative, twisted, mystical, humorous, innocent, and unpredictable! We were excited about the discussion and most finished it quickly-after the halfway point, unable to put it down.

"We discussed symbolism, class differences, racism, religion, southern culture, character motivations, and family relationships. and how the main character was looking up to a family she aspired to. We discussed our childhood oddities, raised by the mention of the character's liking the feel of pain. We enjoyed that it was told through a child's lens, while dark but the child's perspective ensured curiosity and humor even when horrifying things are happeningThe writing is creative and descriptive and made us think about things such as how you hear music in a new light. The ending was haunting and beautiful and there were many shocked reactions!

"We also discussed the movies or books we thought possibly influenced the author, including REBECCA, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and MEAN GIRLS., We are eager to read Gwaltney's next novel!"

Menu: “Iced tea was sipped!"

Famished for Fiction: “A wonderful opportunity to read a complex story with a bit of mystery and unexpected twists and turns. Our group is diverse, and open to new and different genres, and appreciated the opportunity to discover this book. We discussed the focus of music and its impact on the progression of the story. Music is a major theme throughout the piece, whether it is the music Mr. Mayfield had composed for his wife or the musical virtuosity of the Mayfield children. We explored the cicada's presence: cicadas are seasonal and burrow in the ground, so they are equivalent to all of the secrets that are buzzing around the town of Providence, connecting the Mayfields to Etta Mae and Analeise, and the link between their molting and the growing pains the main characters are experiencing.”

Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Books and Brew, Allendale, Michigan;  Carrollton Book Buddies, Carrollton, Texas;
BluStocking Literacy Society, West Allis, Wisconsin

THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET by Sara Ackerman (Mira, 8/22)
A brilliant female code breaker and a pilot on a top-secret mission come together in this dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.

Ranch Readers: Our book club enjoyed this book as we read a non-fiction WWII book about codebreakers and many have traveled to Hawaii so both the theme and setting are familiar. The storyline was realistic and we enjoyed the dual timelines with relevance at the end of the book when the characters are planting a memorial garden on the plantation. We discussed our mother's vital roles during the war, such as working in a war plant, how women were disregarded and treated as second-class citizens, and the situations where the same treatment happens today.We discussed our Hawaiian travels: topography, lava fields, ocean conditions, and coffee plantations. Those that have visited the Mauna Kea Hotel described it. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy historical fiction and WWII stories.”

Menu: “Banana chocolate chip cake/ banana pudding topping, tropical fruit salad, Huli-huli Chicken.”

BluStocking Literacy Society: “
A perfect match! We enjoy historical fiction/mystery that pulls us in and we all anticipated the discussion. We discussed the timeline and connections between the two eras, and the uncertainty that women codebreakers felt reflected by Lu as she struggles to establish herself as a journalist. Isabel walked a line between expressing her intelligence and thoughts and second-guessing herself and stepping back. It was fascinating to consider women in a secret intelligence role and the obstacles they had to overcome.”
Menu: "
Wacky Cake, a classic chocolate cake born of necessity for WWII rationing.”

Carrollton Book Buddies: “A brilliant female codebreaker. An ‘unbreakable’ Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. My book club loved THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET! The dual timeline novel is set in Hawaii. We enjoyed discussing the amazing roles women played in World War ll. While most of us decided we'd have been secretaries, one member thought the radar plotter sounded like a fit. We appreciated that there were those that worked as mechanics, pilots ferrying planes, medics, and of course, the codebreakers! The Dungeon where the codebreakers worked and the men in charge were a hot topic-the smoke, the drinking, the snobbery, all appalling. Just the thought of approaching the stairs and entering drew lots of remarks! We read the author's explanation of the difference between codes and ciphers and concluded the codebreakers were brilliant! We discussed survivor's guilt, the way Germans, Italians, and the Japanese were treated here in the states, and men in power and misuse of that power. We appreciated the way the threads were all tied up by the ending, though a surprise. The stunning descriptions of the Mauna Kea Hotel and the surroundings have us all wishing for a trip to Hawaii. We appreciated the brilliant, unique roles of women in war."

Menu: "We met at tropical Tommy Bahamas restaurant for a chopped salad with shrimp, coconut shrimp, and Mahi Mahi Tacos. Tropical beverages included. Cloud Coconut Martinis and Jalapeno Margaritas."

Books and Brew: "The story takes place in 1943 and 1965. It's 1943, and Isabel Cooper, who has lost her older brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor, is working as a code breaker, solving Japanese naval codes. Isabel seizes an opportunity to solve codes in Hawaii to locate her brother’s friends and learn about his life. In Hawaii, she stumbles into a life-changing mystery. In 1965, aspiring journalist Lu Freitas is traveling to the Mauna Kea Hotel for its grand opening, when she befriends a famous woman. When her new friend disappears, Lu investigates and soon uncovers a missing link to the past. We discussed women in history, World War II, the relationship between the main character to her friend and her brother's friends, her internal struggle, and women's roles during the war. I was so grateful to have received this book early for my book club! I was so immersed in the characters and their story, I couldn't put it down! Five stars!"

Reading is My Cardio, Smithfield, Rhode Island;  Bookish Ladies, Coto De Caza, California; Next Chapter, Leesburg, Virginia
SIX DAYS IN ROME by Francesca Giacco (Grand Central, 5/22)
A young artist travels to Rome to heal a broken heart, where she confronts loneliness and intimacy, rage and desire in this debut novel.

Reading is My Cardio: "We adored this lyrical and atmospheric debut! It was refreshing to read a book with realistically flawed characters and where not everything gets tied up in a perfect bow. This character-driven story explores relationships in so many forms - family, romantic, and with one's self - and the writing is just beautiful. Truly a perfect book for summer, transporting us to Rome for a captivating six days. We discussed how this isn't a book with a lot of plot and yet it kept us interested throughout. We loved the writing and many of us highlighted passages that we shared and discussed, and the group also touched on whether we'd be able to travel solo as the main character did. Another subject that came up was how the narrative is almost stream of consciousness which some of our group enjoyed more than others. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy being transported to another place and appreciate character-driven books about self-discovery."

Menu: "Italian-themed cocktail party featuring charcuterie, Aperol Spritzes, and a gelato bar for dessert."

Bookish Ladies: "SIX DAYS IN ROME was beautifully written We enjoyed the food and descriptions around Rome! We loved how the book was written in terms of description and character development. It was a lighter, summer read. We felt l the character had a lot to work out but she never quite figured out what it was so there were a lot of questions left up for interpretation."

Menu: Italian rosé, homemade flatbreads with Italian pesto, mozzarella, fresh basil, aged balsamic, and roasted tomatoes.

Next Chapter: “Everyone agreed that Francesca Giacco's writing was beautiful,—and it was fun to read her book looking for food and drink that members can make and enjoy at book club! Emilia heads off on a six-day trip to Rome—it was supposed to be a romantic trip with her then-boyfriend Michael. but that’s not possible as he is married! With six days in Rome, Emilia will have time to reflect on why it wouldn’t work, why she deserves better, and time to enjoy the food and wine on her trip. We discussed what we thought happened to Michael: we had differing opinions to whether he had died or was with someone else or married. During her trip, she reflects on her relationship with her father and brother, and has lots of yummy food and drink throughout. We were happy that she met someone new and Emilia Is able to focus on herself and her art. Her six days in Rome weren’t what she had planned when she booked the trip, but sometimes better things come out of bad situations. Ah, the magic of Italy! One of our members took her book to Rome and shared photos."

Menu: “We enjoyed Aperol Spritz cocktails, a charcuterie board, tiramisu, and wine-soaked grapes”.

Peoria Book Rack, Illinois, Thrillers by the Book Orange County, California, Novels N Latte, Hudson Valley, New York
THE GOOD SISTER by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 2021)
A psychological thriller about the lies that bind two sisters.

Peoria Book Rack: “We agreed it was fast-paced and a quick read. The story keeps you guessing as you try to figure out the family dynamic between sisters Rose and Fern. the journals, their relationship with the mom, the twists! We also discussed Hepworth's versatility as an author. She has a solid list of backlist books that many of us are excited to check out! We recommend for book clubs that enjoy family thrillers.”

Thrillers by the Book: “Everyone loves Sally Hepworth, and this was a favorite! A likable main character and a fun story. We talked about representation in books, and the importance of character-driven books, and how her writing style is relatable and easy to read."

Novels N Latte: “Perfect for our club. We love good twisted family dynamics, and this sister story gave us a lot to discuss, including Fern's autism spectrum and which was actually the good sister.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, East Lawrence High School Book Club of Trinity, Alabama, Reckless Readers of  Eastford, Connecticut, and North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania
DARK AND SHALLOW LIES by Ginny Myers Sain (Penguin Teen, 2021)

A supernatural thriller about a teen girl who disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp.

Reckless Readers: The story hooked the teens— they enjoyed the love story and the witchy aspect, and our adult readers also loved the book. We included teen daughters who wanted to join, and teachers and librarians in the group who wanted to preview it before ordering for their locations. A few of them have not read YA books, so it was a nice and unexpected change for them. We liked the Southern setting, and how the author submerged us in Bayou. From gigantic gators ( Willie Nelson) to psychic abilities, shapeshifter, and Aurora readers, this book is a full experience. The end was shocking and fit the story. We recommend this book for those that enjoy a hint of magic within a southern setting.

Menu: "Southern delights mentioned in the book: Honey’s Pralines, Willie Nelson’s Gator Piss cocktail—with Midori, lime juice, rum, sweet & sour mix, and seltzer—Cajun wings and shrimp dip."

North Wales Area Library: “Our group had one of the best discussions we can remember!”This was an excellent selection and discussion. The book brought the Louisiana bayou setting to life. One member was raised in the area and she especially thought the setting description was spot on. The group wondered why the word ‘shallow’ was included in the title: The lies did not seem shallow. We debated the killer, books were pulled out and theories shared. The hurricane preparation made for interesting reading. We discussed why an outside investigation might not have happened. All said they would read another Sain book and looked forward to the next book in the series. We hope to have our adult group discuss DARK AND SHALLOW LIES with our teen book club! Our group rates books with 1-5 stars. The lowest rating in the group was 4.5! We recommend this book to clubs who enjoy reading outside of the box.”

ELHS Book Club: “Thank you for providing yet another wonderful book for our students! We discussed the setting bayous, swamps, cypress trees, alligators, shrimp boats and houses on stilts. The author did an excellent job painting a picture for the reader. We also discussed mental illness which is woven into the plot through a couple of characters via subtle behaviors and downright craziness.

Menu: jambalaya, gumbo, and pistolette rolls.

Book Club Girls: “Don't be turned away by the YA label, this book is for all ages. It was completely off our radar as far as genre, and many readers gave it five stars, and couldn't believe it was a debut novel. One member stayed up until 5 am to finish— she just had to know the end! The writing was fantastic. We discussed the book is marketed as a YA title, however, NONE of us are near that demographic We felt the characters could be aged up to the 30s and 40' and still make sense—they were just as vital to the storyline as the plot. We felt the novel touched on mystery and supernatural themes but also the deep-rooted impact of emotional trauma that shapes us. We discussed how keeping secrets buried for so many years by everyone caused so much heartache and pain. If truths were told from the start, what would the lives of the children have been like?? A great evening with lots of thoughtful discussions and fun had by all."

Menu: Hurricane Punch, crawfish, gator bites, cajun fried catfish, and cornbread.

Lit Ladies Read Book Club of Melbourne, Florida and Thrillers by the Book of Costa Mesa, California
THE YOUNGER WIFE by Sally Hepworth, (St. Martins Press, 4/22)
A new novel of domestic suspense that delves into a tangled web of family secrets, and lies.

Lit Ladies Read: "We loved this book and had a great discussion, which centered on the theme of perceived reality. We had a great debate about whether Stephen was actually an abuser or just misunderstood. The epilogue raised more questions than provided answers. Our group had varying opinions depending on which character’s perspective we were discussing. We all enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the ending and agreed it was very clever. It was a lot of fun to discuss our own opinions and debate what we believed to be the truth. Some of our members took the book at face value, while others questioned what we had read and what we believed to be the truth.

"We liked how the story was told with alternating points of view and followed along easily when the perspective changed. The book dealt with some serious topics but was written in a very light-hearted way that made it a quick enjoyable read."

Menu: “Heather would have been proud! We met at a country club,  in true Aston fashion. We had Mahi tacos and quesadillas in honor of Rachel and Darcy’s first date.”

Thrillers by the Book: "A perfect match! We’re big fans of Sally Hepworth! We loved the intriguing vibe the author created by not revealing right away who was involved in the accident from the opening scene. The story is based on many factors, dysfunctional family dynamics, abusive relationships, addiction, mental issues, and so many juicy secrets. We enjoyed Sally’s writing style and the characters she created. Sally has a way of making her characters very relatable and down to earth. We also enjoyed how she connected a piece of her real-life to one of the scenes in this book. Some of the secondary characters seemed to love Stephen but Heather and his kids suspect him of being abusive. The ending left us wondering if Stephen was in actual fact abusive. The women around him suffered a lot of 'accidents' but it’s never clear if they were really accidents or intentional. We recommend this title for book clubs that enjoy a family drama with a hint of suspense. Thank you for spoiling our book club!"

Page Ladies of Cleveland, Ohio, Bibliobibuli of San Diego, California, and HAH Reading Club of Kaukama, Wisconsin
THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY by Sherri L. Smith ((Penguin Young Readers, 2//20)
From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war.

Page Ladies: “Thank you for sharing this amazing, compelling, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking story about life in Japan during World War II. We were surprised by how much research went into it, and we are always interested in books that can teach us something. The story switches between Taro and Hana's perspectives so we see two sides of the story and what each experienced. Could we imagine being Hana, having to take care of the kamikaze pilots and then say goodbye to them, knowing that they will more than likely die? We talked about Hana and the pilot—how they felt at the beginning of the book versus the end— as well as the choices that surprised us and whether we would do the same. This was an emotional read and the pace moves well with the story."

Bibliobibuli: “Our members enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY, and our chat with author Sherri Smith was especially enjoyable. The novel is a fictionalized account of young kamikaze pilots and the teen-aged girls who provided platonic camaraderie and emotional support to them during World War II. Smith employs lyrical prose to introduce the reader to war-torn Japan and the youth culture that rallied around Emperor Hirohito. We appreciated learning more about the Japanese perspective on World War II. Hana’s disparaging remarks about Americans made us realize that we had never heard from the youth of Japan about the events of the war."

HAH Reading Club: We really enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY and its different perspectives on World War II We discussed how the novel reminded us of the current situation with the Ukrainian and Russian war. The author talked about remembering so it doesn’t happen again, and we discussed how emotional we felt about the abuse, propaganda, and conditioning that happened to prepare the civilians and boys for the war.
We compared how the reading of trauma and the emotional impact, ranges based on the age of the reader. We discussed the comparison of how being ready for death in a moment you can’t control, such as a reaction to an air raid, and the premeditated preparation of the pilots to body-crash was handled and how the author gave us both views. We also found how the invasion was perceived after all the preparations made to fight to the death as the expectation from the government. We recommend this novel to clubs looking for an emotional experience with a dive into other cultures."

Get Lit Book Club, Coto de Caza, California, and April's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas

THE STORIES WE TELL: Every Piece of Your Story Matters by Joanna Gaines (Harper Select . 11/8/22)
The first solo memoir from the Magnolia co-founder.

April's Book Chat: THE STORIES WE TELL sparked lively conversations and reflections among our members. Many members resonated with Gaines' experiences of racial hate and bullying, finding validation in their own experiences with mixed heritage. The book inspired us to consider journaling as a means of processing life's events and thoughts, and we appreciated the pearls of wisdom scattered throughout the text. While some members debated whether the book was self-help or memoir, others simply enjoyed it for what it was. We recommend this book to fans of personal development books.

We met at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Shops at Creekside in Frisco, Texas, a cozy spot with a welcoming atmosphere reminiscent of Gaines' own design style, making it the perfect location for our discussion."

Get Lit: "We’re all fans of Chip and Joanna’s and enjoyed learning more about her. Chip is so funny and Joanna always appears to be calm, so it was interesting learning about her childhood and the difficulties she faced.

“Everyone agreed the book was a fast read and we enjoyed getting to know Joanna and her story, earning about how she grew up, met Chip, how they started their business and raised children in a world that can be harsh sometimes. We discussed ‘growing up being ‘different’ than her classmates and how we overcame that. Some members found junior high to be difficult while others struggled in high school. We recommend it to those who enjoy memoirs/ nonfiction/self-help. Fans of Chip and Joanna should pick up THE STORIES WE TELL, and sit down to read it with some biscuits and jam as we did!”
Menu: “We made and discussed recipes from THE MAGNOLIA TABLE COOKBOOK! We enjoyed Joanna‘s famous biscuits, silo cookies, scones, and stuffed mushrooms. Joanna is gifted with her baking and decorating— such a unique individual."

Jensen Beach County Club's Womens Book Club of Florida,  The Wine Club With a Book Problem of Acworth, Georgia, and Blu Stocking Literary Society of West Allis, Wisconsin
THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS by M.J. Rose (Blue Box, 2/23)

A tale of two passionate women— a  famous jewelry designer who fights to protect her company and rescue the man she loves, and an auctioneer whose gifts reveal a secret that endangers her very life, 

Jensen Beach County Club:  “We loved the descriptions of the jewelry that Suzanne Belperron made and the majority of us had researched Suzanne's designs after reading the book.A good match for our book club. We enjoy historical fiction or books with strong women. This novel features a dual timeline— France, 1942, and New York, 1986. Suzanne is a sought-after jewelry designer in France and her longtime lover and business partner, Bernard has been arrested by the Nazis. Violine is an appraiser for an auction company in 1986 and has been approached by Paul Osgood about selling family antiques. While visiting his home, she discovers a hidden compartment in a vintage Louis Vuitton case containing WWII-era jewelry. Violine is gifted with learning the history and secrets of objects she touches, and their owners and realizes that the jewelry has a long and tragic history. Violine and Paul work together to discover the history of the case and the jewelry. We discussed how Dixie and Suzanne demonstrated this in their work for the resistance movement."

Menu: "French rose wine, croissants, olives, brie, baguettes with French butter, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, dark chocolate squares, and cappuccino."

The Wine Club With a Book Problem "THE JEWELER OF STOLEN DREAMS is a captivating and powerful story that grabs you from the first page— a good match for as we like historical fiction with strong women. We enjoy books in which we learn something new, and the story prompts us further investigate a topic—in this case, Suzanne Belperron, one of the most innovative jewelers of her time, and her jewelry designs. This intriguing story explored Suzanne Belperron's courage and those who participated in the French Resistance by helping Jewish families leave France. We liked the novel's alternating dual timelines—Paris 1942 and New York 1986—which link Suzanne and Violine, an art historian/appraiser with a  supernatural gift.  We noted that this is the first book we've read that involves psychometry.” 

Rose has written a beautiful and descriptive story. We recommend this book to those that enjoy magical realism, suspense, and World War II fiction."

Menu: "Brie, apples, Classic French Salad (romaine, tarragon, chives, walnuts with a lemon vinaigrette, Ina Garten's Bouef Bourguignon, Mashed Potatoes, macarons. truffles."

Blu Stocking: An excellent selection for our club. This story was fascinating and the psychometry was an interesting twist. We enjoy reading about real people in history within a historical fiction context. While the characters are placed in a fictional story, there is much to take away. Several of us did some research on Suzanne Belperron and her jewelry designs. We also like the alternating timeline. robust discussion. We discussed psychometry's 'unbelievable' aspect juxtapositioned with an equally 'unbelievable' period of history as the holocaust. Also, we talked about the courage and actions of people in this world that are so brave and committed even in the face of personal danger, as well as the variety of themes—determination, strength of character, hope, faith, and love in all its incarnations, lovers (Suzanne/Bernard/Jean), friends (Suzanne & Dixie) and love of country/places (France)”

Curious Book Club,  Frederick, Maryland; St. Louis Women’s Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; First Saturday Book Club, Pensacola, Florida

PRACTICE GIRL by Estelle Laure (Penguin Teen, 5/22)
A novel about a girl who rejects her label and decides for herself who she is to the world—about reputation and double standards,

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: “The themes were fantastic and the character was so likable. This YA novel explores high school, sexuality, friendships, and relationships. The themes of finding first loves and figuring out who you are made for great conversation! We discussed how high school is portrayed in the media today— are students really doing drugs, alcohol, and sex, as much as they portray? The book was well written and it was easy to visualize the small town high school. There were great moments in the friendships and relationships that are good lessons for that demographic.

Curious Book Club: “It was fun to read a book we typically wouldn’t have chosen - we hadn’t even heard of this one!t’s a YA coming of age/romance that features an angsty teenager that is coping with the loss of a parent and being used by boys who she thinks care for her. The story focuses on the challenges of dating and sex in high school. We loved the friendship storyline that developed throughout the book. Although the main character is very angsty, the emotions were real and raw throughout the story.  We thought that the ending of the story was the most interesting! We loved that Jo was able to have a heart-to-heart with her mom and stepdad to build a better relationship with her family. We all were in favor of the guy she chooses in the end! l. Recommended for those who enjoy YA coming-of-age stories.”

Menu: We met at a diner because there was a diner in the story!

First Saturday Book Club: "We had a great discussion about PRACTICE GIRLan honest, moving YA read that should be in the hands of more teens. PRACTICE GIRL offers a strong look at what it means to participate in a relationship and the need for teens to understand the ramifications of sex and responsibility and dedication to relationships. The author writes with emotional depth—we feel everything Jo goes through, and we root for Jo to win at wrestling and life. It’s clever, charming, and poignant. 

We discussed teenage behaviors: that Jo was not responsible for Sam kissing her yet she is blamed, how girls need to have girl relationships so they have support, the importance of family, taking others into consideration while establishing boundaries, and understanding the relationship before sex. Also, that growing up and having friendships change is difficult but a part of growing up. We all enjoyed this coming-of-age novel, recommended for this for groups that enjoy YA lit with emotional depth."

Happy Bookers, Linn Missouri, Lit Ladies Read Melbourne, Florida, and St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri; and Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York
WEYWARD by Emila Hart (St. Martin's Press, 3/23)

A novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world

Happy Bookers: “A gem of a book with resilient female characters is our favorite GalleyMatch to date.”- on a novel weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries— a story of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world, read with galleys from
“Hart has given us much to ponder in a most bewitching tale. Altha, Violet, and Kate will long stay with us for their resilience and fortitude. We agreed that witchcraft isn’t accomplished through spells, but by their connection to the world around them -— and that was most appreciated and enjoyed. We cheered at the comeuppance of the perpetrators who caused harm both physical and mental to the female characters. We discussed the plight and strength of women over the ages dealing with similar treatment. The three women characters were enthralling. The author wove the three timelines of the Weyward women’s lives together expertly. Their plight, resourcefulness, and special powers along with their ties to nature and their strength to survive amidst adversity and ill-treatment earn these characters a place in your heart. The short chapters breeze along while keeping the depth of the characters and story strong. Highly recommended by our group to fellow readers. The perfect fall read. The perfect anytime read! Cannot wait to read more from this author.”

Menu: Orton stew (chicken and rice soup) W pendant cakes(cupcakes), Witches sticks and twigs (fried tortilla strips), Cottage dip (cowboy caviar), Crow Bars (brownie bites), Insect Wings(corn chips), Graham Crackers(saltines and wheat thins), and Morgs(moon drop grapes)in a member’s backyard and woods for our book reenactments."

Lit Ladies Read:“ We loved everything about this book! This is a very compelling read that highlights the connection between women, family, and nature."
WEYWARD is a beautifully written story about the strength and resilience of three different women. The story is told in alternating timelines, in different centuries leaving the reader to wonder how these women are related. The Weyward women all face similar, yet different, hardships of violence, abuse, and expectations of society that they must overcome. The women all have a very strong connection to nature and find strength and inner peace through this connection. The alternating timelines advance the story and keep you wanting more. The descriptive language paints a clear picture, and we loved the alternating timelines—each character's story was compelling and gave a feel for what these women had to endure. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the treatment of women who were deemed ’weird’ throughout history. It is frightening to think that there was a period in history when women could be labeled witches and executed based on nothing more than conjecture and failure to conform to societal expectations. Altha's storyline, in particular really highlighted how ludicrous the idea of witchcraft really is and how scared people were of anyone who was different. Another hot topic was domestic abuse and how difficult it can be for abused women to escape their abuser. Both Kate's and Violet's stories dealt with physical and sexual abuse that required both women to find the strength to remove themselves from their situations. We recommend for those who enjoy stories about women finding their inner strength to overcome hardship.”

Menu: Witching Hour Cabernet Sauvignon and witch hat cupcakes.

St. Louis: "WEYWARD was intense, honest and deeply connected to today’s time The three timelines and main character add layers of interconnected themes and details. At first glance, these are very different women but ultimately all face similar situations. We discussed feminism and the growth of women throughout time, how the patriarchy impacts women’s abilities to make choices, and Nature vs nurture—these women all were born to be Weyward, not raised to be Weyward.
Recommended for those who enjoyed THE LOST APOTHECARY by Sarah Penner; three perspectives or time periods in stories; the power of nature; books about powerful women and the ability to be strong despite the circumstances and external environment. This book has some trigger warnings that I think all readers need to be extremely mindful of before reading (physical/verbal abuse, parental abuse, rape, pregnancy loss, abortion, jail).

Reading Between the Wines: “This book was a perfect match for our club. We all enjoyed this story of three women from the same family line at different points in time. There was so much to discuss here: our connection to the natural world, overcoming trauma, giving yourself grace, and the strength and resilience of women, feminism, women’s connection to the natural world, family legacies, and overcoming trauma We thought the author did a great job incorporating the interconnected stories of Althea, Violet, and Kate. Recommended to book clubs that enjoy women’s fiction, historical fiction with dual timelines, and a touch of magical realism.

Menu: "Food to honor the garden at Weyward cottage, including veggie crackers with garden vegetables, and basil cheese, roasted vegetable pizza, and fresh veggies with hummus. We also had blueberry scones with jam and tea and biscuits as a nod to the English settings in the book."

Longwood Ladies, Goshen, Kentucky and Colonies Book Club, Yorkville, Illinois
ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE by Noelle Salazar ( Mira,/ HTP, 11/22)
A story inspired by true events, about courageous women who risked everything for their country, family, and each other

Longwood Ladies: “ANGELS OF THE RESISTANCE was a great book club book.We all loved learning about a neutral country. It was a new take on that era that we all really enjoyed! We discussed how much we learned about the World War II era, We talked a lot about and enjoyed the fact that it shined the light on a true sister act.  It was the first historical fiction I’ve read that took place in the Netherlands during World War II. It was a refreshing change to hear the trials from a neutral neighbor. The characters were easy to relate to and love and my heart was wrenched by their bravery and struggles. We fell in love with the characters —they were strong, intelligent, patient women right from the start and their growth and determination were astounding. We recommend ANGELS to those who enjoy historical fiction and reading about strong women! If you enjoyed THE LILAC GIRLS, ROSE CODE, or Salazar’s first book, FLIGHT GIRLS, you will enjoy this historical fiction. We all thank you immensely!”

Colonies Book Club: "Some members were in tears throughout this beautifully told story of two young sisters who risk everything for their homeland during World War II. Our members loved this book. Some comments: A heart-wrenching read that is full of tenderness, resilience, courage, brutality, and devotion. The author did a great job of opening our eyes to the hardships of living through Nazi occupation Salazar demonstrated how strong the bonds of sisters, family, and friends are in a powerful way. This story is told from the perspective of a young teenage girl and how innocence is lost through the actions necessary to fight the evil that ripped her country apart. We were unfamiliar with the occupation of the Netherlands and learned about their struggle with starvation and freezing during the last years of the war. We couldn’t imagine girls getting involved with the resistance and what they were willing to do for their country. We all felt the guilt that Lien carried throughout her life over her little sister's death and the catalyst that was for her to join the resistance. We loved the epilogue and the closure it gave us about all of the character

Literary Lovelies, Yonkers, New York; Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut: CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut
THE VILLA by Rachel Hawkins(St. Martin's Press, 1/23)
A gothic suspense novel set at an Italian villa with a dark history.

Literary Lovelies:" We all loved the book! This book has books within the book!”-“We discussed both storylines and if we found ourselves drawn to one story or the other. Susan loved the dual timelines and thought the Mari storyline felt like a movie! We also discussed whether we saw that Mark and Chess were together. A lot of people had thoughts on Chess! We decided she was either a Love or hate character. We also discussed if you have to like the characters to like a book. Chelsey thought the book reminded her of Rachel’s other books and talked about her distinct writing style. We loved how easy it was to read, and enjoyed the epistolary chapters that enhanced the story. We felt the book wrapped up a little quickly and we wished that Emily had stood up for herself a little more! But the Italy location was a favorite of ours as well as the slight gothic style of the Mari plot line. We recommend THE VILLA to clubs that enjoy dual timelines in beautiful settings! Thank you so much for this opportunity!"

Menu: "We meet virtually, but enjoyed some limoncello while reading the book! Emily and Chess are a little over-served on limoncello their first night in Italy."

CT Lit Book Club: This book had us in a heated discussion about what we would do if we were in the main character’s situation. We found ourselves in a coffee shop yelling about dead husbands and realized we probably should put our books on the tabble so other patrons see we are actually discussing a book!!
“We were excited to preview a Rachel Hawkins title! The majority of us have read THE WIFE UPSTAIRS and RECKLESS GIRLS, along with some of her Erin Sterling books.
We had high expectations for THE VILLA, as it is highly anticipated by the bookstagram community. Overall, we expected it to be more ‘thrilling’, but we enjoyed it and were enthralled wondering what was going to end up happening and how the two stories of what took place at the villa were going to bridge together. One member described her reading experience as the story ‘always having an air of suspicion to keep her intrigued.’ We really loved the setting of the villa in Italy and loved the throwbacks to the 70s! We recommend this book to those that enjoy drama, and books like BIG LITTLE LIES.’

Reckless Readers: "Everyone loved the book, rating it Hawkins’s best yet!"- “This is our second GalleyMatch for a Rachel Hawkins book, and we were very excited! Most members read THE VILLA in two sittings We could not wait to rant about the characters we hated, dissect the twists, and gush over the amazing setting. There was a lot of early chatter in the week before our meeting — those that finished it early could not wait to have our discussion.

The level of betrayal among friends was the biggest discussion. We loved the setting, the dual timelines, and the parallels between them. The twists were nonstop and unexpected, which kept us page-turning. The dual timelines made the story. Going from Emily & Chess presently staying at the Villa, to Mari in 1974, the reader gets the full picture of what really happened at The Villa Aestas. Both stories have parallels that are frightening. It seems that you can’t stay at the Villa without it taking someone from you. There are love triangles, friendship deceits, thrilling reveals, and murder to fit everyone’s appetite. It’s dark and atmospheric in ways we have never seen from Rachel Hawkins. She packed so many surprises into this book, but the last chapter is the biggest. There was a hot debate among the group on whether that last chapter was even necessary. How many twists are too many? We recommend if you enjoy big twisty thrillers that grip you until the end —add it to your preorder list! It's out in January, and will be on everyone’s hot list for 2023!"

Menu: “Italian lemon theme to match book: lemon basil pasta salad, lemon ricotta hot cheese dip, limoncello cocktails.”

Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Riverside Readers, Plain City, Ohio; Amy's Book Club, Boulder Colorado
A LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Melissa Payne (Lake Union, 2022)
An emotional and suspenseful novel about the weight of secrets and the healing power of friends and family.

Riverside Readers: “We loved the Ohio setting and although Crystal was a made-up town, we have been to similar small towns and could picture the intent while we read. We appreciated the fun and quirky characters with a hint of underlying mystery in the book. don't know. We discussed the small town, the stereotypes, and the reality, not all small towns in Ohio are like that but we knew why the author picked to use the stereotypical poor/mining town in Appalachia. The timelines coordinated well together with the flashbacks. The characters of the small town were unique and we liked how they interacted with each other—they balanced the trauma. The reader's guide for this book was great. Thank you! We love being introduced to new authors and this time it helped build a new small community of readers, as this is a new book club."

Amy's Book Club: "The setting drew us in, the characters moved us, and the story had us in its grip —and caused many of us to stay up way too late reading. Everyone loved the characters and felt invested in their stories, and wanted to know more about some of the more peripheral characters. We discussed, justice, bullies getting away with things, whether the law is involved or not, and how the town changed regarding violence toward the LGBTQIA+ community. We discussed the repetition of ‘running’ at the beginning and how it would have felt to be Vega just trying to escape and survive; the town dynamics and why it was mostly accepted that the Harrisons could bully who they pleased without repercussions — contrasted with the senseless shooting that took place the night before we met in Colorado Springs and whether we thought there would or could be justice.
We discussed which of the lovable/heroic characters we enjoyed the most and whether Vega was a hero or a victim;, the pacing of how quickly Vega developed community in Crystal, secrets and why they should be kept or told; our reactions to Vega checking Instagram and our internal screamings at her of what we wanted her to do, the town's support of Eve, and what would happen next for all of them. We recommend A LIGHT IN THE FOREST to book clubs that enjoy complicated relationships and a multi-decade mystery to unravel."

Melanie’s Book Club:" We loved the opportunity to preview A LIGHT IN THE FOREST. We are reading another Melissa Payne book this month, as a result! Everyone had positive comments and the book made for great conversation. One member who is stingy with book ratings gave our selection 5 stars. This is a thoughtful, well-written book that discusses real-life issues with great character development. A main discussion point was the different social issues addressed in the book and that the author didn't 'preach' about them. Our group has many teachers and nurses in it and this made an impact on us, especially since we see these issues in the lives of our students and patients. We appreciated the character development and that through the different points of view, we were able to put pieces of the puzzle together before Vega did, yet it didn’t take away from the mystery. This book is a must-read! We look forward to seeing if her other books have a similar writing style and theme."

Madame Woods Book Club of Wiscasset, Maine, and Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
THE WAYS WE HIDE, by Kristina McMorris (Sourcebooks, 2022)
A sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.Madame Woods: “This book changed the way some of our readers perceive historical fiction. We were amazed at the authors’ ability to weave real-life events into an intricate and complex story. McMorris grabbed our attention with her latest novel, based on true facts This character-driven novel has elements of romance and suspense with a bittersweet ending. The novel begins with the main character Fenna whose life was significantly shaped by a stampede on Christmas Eve. Her perseverance from childhood helped her maintain her determination and profound instinct to get through life’s challenges along the way. Fenna, an intelligent character, is shaped by life events and uses those experiences to maneuver through challenges. This novel has elements of history and fiction interwoven in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are right alongside the characters.
We discuss the intricacies of the story and how relatable the main character was. McMorris thoughtfully and seamlessly transitions from a story of romance, into a detail-oriented spy novel, and keeps the reader o n the edge of their seat in anticipation of what direction the story and characters would go next. She challenges the reader to keep up with current and past storylines, all while inserting historical events, distracting the reader - they are well intertwined into the characters' lives and the book’s storylines. THE WAYS WE HIDE offers a variety of themes that would appeal to a large readership. So many beautiful moments, even in the last chapters of the book, that offer a sweet and real conclusion.”Book Club Girls of Sparta: "We enjoyed reading about a part of history we did not know of.Most of us were unaware of the Dutch involvement in the resistance or hadn't heard of this chapter of history where women recruited into the resistance worked on inventing escape aids that were hidden in things like games, and the hiding of clues and maps in ordinary objects was interesting to learn about. The resounding takeaway was the fact that so many people risked everything to help the resistance, to help other humans stay safe. Many questioned whether they would be as brave, especially being a woman. We found the most connecting part of the story was Fennas; bravery, and fearlessness even though she had deep trauma from the fire. We recommend THE WAYS WE HIDE to groups interested in historical fiction about new pieces of World War III history and strong female protagonists."Menu: Tea and speculoos cookies.

Brunch & Books Club, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Literary Fires Everywhere, Cortland Manor, New York
THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center, (St. Martin's Press, 7/22)
A romantic and humorous romance about a bodyguard, and the movie star she's hired to protect, as they work to keep things professional under crazy circumstances

Brunch & Books: “We discussed the main character’s growth. Everyone enjoyed the love story, but seeing how the character grew into herself from start to finish was what really stood out. She gained confidence and self-respect that she didn’t have at the beginning and that really resonated with members. The discussion questions prompted a good conversation that brought to mind parts of the story we might not have discussed.
I Ioved this fun and funny book with every piece of my heart. It was my first Katherine Center novel and it felt as if I was sitting with a BFF listening to her tell e this hilarious and heartwarming story. 10/10! The Author’s Note alone is worth 5 stars. Don’t skip it! Recommended for those who enjoy funny, happy love stories! We’re so appreciative of the opportunity! “

Literary Fires Everywhere: "We all enjoyed this book. I am definitely not a regular rom-com reader— I usually find myself rolling my eyes at plots that make others swoon— but I really did love this book. It’s super cute, engaging, and the characters feel real. Even the setting popped right off the page! Definitely recommend grabbing this one!

Hannah has been hired to be a bodyguard to Jack, a Hollywood burnout who would prefer not to have a bodyguard. The pair have palpable chemistry, and I quickly found myself rooting for them. We are not huge romance readers and we’re all pleasantly surprised that it was both fluffy and deep, a un reads with a bit of drama. We all loved the touches and the author’s descriptions. (The Bush steak knives)."

Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado;  and Bookish Ladies,  Coto de Caza, California
HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese (St. Martin's Press, 10/4/22)
A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Get Woke: "HESTER’s message empowered us! As Laurie Lico Albanese writes, Hester Prynne is ‘a heroic woman who defies powerful men and vengeful villagers by wearing the symbol of her shame like a badge of courage.’ Heroic women! May we be them and may we raise them!”A major symbol, incorporating the books' themes, was  Isobel's sewing skill and her ability to design and stitch beautiful patterns and scenes that revealed emotions and contained hidden messages.
Each member of the book club was asked to bring a bottle of wine (or another beverage of choice), containing a label that could reflect a 'hidden' message or theme of the story. Our discussion involved each of the members presenting her wine and describing the label, revealing aspects of the novel. These included PROPHECY WINES— The label’s images relate to the supernatural world, and scenes with shooting stars. Isobel struggles to accept her power, and the woman on the label exhibits power.*TEMPTATION AND EVE—Depicts Eve tempting Adam. Isobel’s community shuns her as a witch when she becomes pregnant. EVE elicited discussion on the Bible story – Isobel notes its message about untrustworthy women. GNARLY HEAD WINES—summarizes many characters' mental states: Hawthorne struggles with his family history of witch trials. Isobel struggles with her artistic creations and powers. *KALEIDOSCOPE:— Isabel’s gift enables her to create beautiful designs and messages on clothing and understand others’ emotions. WITCHING HOUR: summarized the novel’s mystery, fantasy, excitement, and passion.
Menu: A ‘community rice bowl’ is symbolic of the support and encouragement women shared in the novel. Member brought ingredients. Along with the theme of wine, dessert bars were labeled ‘Primitive Nuts’: many characters reflect this title!
We  also shared a representation of each member’s name created by a woman with synesthesia.”
Ranch Readers: "We were intrigued by the premise of imagining the woman who inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's protagonist, Hester Prynne, in his iconic novel, THE SCARLET LETTER, In Hester, they meet -- Nathan is a young struggling writer, who is haunted by his ancestor's treatment of the witches of Salem. and Isobel is a young wife, who recently immigrated from Scotland, and has been deserted by an opium-addicted husband who left her destitute. Isobel supports herself by creating exquisite embroidery and also through the kindness of others in town. She has synesthesia-a sensory phenomenon in which she sees letters and sounds expressed in colors. Isobel learns at an early she to hide this ability so that she would not be called a witch, but she uses her extraordinary skill to create beautiful work. We agreed that the book's language was very descriptive and enthralling and we had a long discussion about our own creative processes that have enriched our life.

We thought character of 'Hathorne' -- what the author calls Hawthorne-- could have been developed a bit further as he seemed shallow and his treatment of Isobel seemed dismissive. The social issues of the time were well highlighted by the author with a concurrent story of the Witch Trials in Salem, the plight of fleeing saves using the Underground Railroad, the mistreatment and victimization of women who had no rights, the struggles of prejudice that immigrants face in America We enjoyed the novel and feel it is going to become a best seller - it was definitely a compelling read!

Menu: Bee-shaped tea cakes and chocolate and lemon lavender scones to enjoy with tea and coffee.

Bookish Ladies: "Everyone enjoyed the book and a fresh reboot of The Scarlet Letter. The author did a wonderful retelling and we loved the characters and the story. We had a great discussion and we’re so happy to have this fun experience. We highly recommend HESTER! One member loved the book so much that she took a trip to Salem - ok it was a brilliant coincidence that she was going there!"

Menu: "Many colorful vegetables mentioned in the book."

Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas and Cork and Olive Book Club, Valrico, Florida
HALF-BLOWN ROSE by Leesa-Cross Smith (Grand Central, 2022)
A novel about a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.

Famished for Fiction: “We had a great time discussing HALF-BLOWN ROSE! This book really stretched us!" We discussed infidelity quite a bit: some members felt that the current problem —the marriage— needed to be resolved before embarking on another adventure—a relationship with Loup. We discussed that Vincent and Loup being independently wealthy contributed to their ability to just 'do as they pleased'. Vincent runs off to Paris; she and Loup travel by train to visit Theo, and family. Her family’s laid-back attitude when she shows up with Loup is a bit shocking; but, put into the context of their family, it made sense. SPOILER ALERT: We felt the ending left questions unanswered...maybe a sequel is in the plans? We would love to know if Vincent will return to Cillian, stay with Loup or go out on her own. We felt she was d searching for her freedom by leaving Kentucky and fleeing to Paris; but, in the end, becomes more tied down with the pregnancy. We recommend this book to those who enjoy Paris, romance, art, and secrets."Menu: We loved that the novel was set in Paris so we met at a French restaurant, Toulouse Cafe & Bar for quiche, Toulouse salad, lobster rolls, lobster risotto, and rose-themed drinks: French 77 and Rose all-day punch."

Cork and Olive: We looked forward to HALF-BLOWN ROSE, as we enjoyed Leesa’s novel THIS CLOSE TO OKAY and this did not disappoint! We enjoy her writing style—a phenomenal writer!” There was much discussion about whether Vincent should have led her husband on, whether it was wrong for her to be with Loup before a decision about her marriage, and whether she should have reached out to Tully and his mother. No one liked Cillian's actions and would have preferred Vincent to end her marriage if she was going to go be with someone else. We discussed Vincent's relationship with her children and the growing relationship with Tully, who we loved. There was concern that Vincent spent more time on Tully with her children, although we know that she loved them - she just didn't share as much of herself with them. We all want an epilogue!! We agreed that we needed to know what Vincent decided. Some hoped she kicked both Cillian and Loop to the curb, stayed in Paris, and raised the baby herself. Some thought she might have both... We loved that she decided to just do whatever she felt— eat pastries, sleep during the day, do whatever her spirit felt, while she proces

sed this punch in the gut to her life.
We enjoyed the references to food, art, books, and music. It was SO brilliant that Leesa created Vincent's Spotify playlists. We were delighted to see videos and references to characters on @anchoismusic. What a great way to bring the book to life! C'est bon bon bon! We recommend this novel to those who enjoy travel, art, and passion.”

Menu: "Our menu featured foods referenced —wonderfully varied and not all French! Cranberry Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Chickpea Stew, Fig Jam and Cheese with crackers, Rosemary Flatbread with Hummus and Olives, Pain au Chocolat, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and of course, Champagne!

Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Literary Lovelies of Yonkers, New York Junior League of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Finer Things Book Club of Brentwood, California
THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman (Kensington, 8/22)
The story about the Willowbrook State School, the Staten Island mental institution that shocked a nation when exposed in the 1970s as a dumping ground for unwanted children.

Sensational Seven: "We are fortunate to read this new novel from a favorite author! Once again, Ms. Wiseman has so eloquently written about another of our nation’s past social injustices. We compared our strong responses to the novel with other books with difficult topics. She has shed light on a piece of our history that is so important to learn about. Her take on Willowbrook through the eyes of sixteen-year-old, Sage Winters, was a riveting ‘page-turner.’ When Sage discovers her twin sister, Rosemary, was alive and had been institutionalized for years at Willowbrook; she courageously heads to the school to rescue her. We discussed our emotional responses in realizing that these atrocities occurred in our lifetime and in our country Our discussion centered on how the children’s parents felt after learning the truth of events at the ‘school.’ We were sad and horrified over Willowbrook, and had for the staff and media who were crucial to its closure. We felt grateful for the advancement in care and treatment of the mentally ill and incapacitated members of our society today.”

Menu: "Our take on related food/drink: White chicken chili, representing the colorless mush that residents at Willowbrook were served daily. We also drank Tequila Sunrises, a popular cocktail in 1972, using orange juice. In the novel, the nurses mixed medication in orange juice to keep the residents sedated. No meds were used by our book club- only tequila and grenadine in the OJ!”

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “We enjoy historical fiction and mystery and this was the best of both worlds!”Some members recently toured a State Hospital in Michigan and were able to compare what they learned with Willowbrook. Ellen Marie Wiseman joined us via Zoom to answer questions about how she researched the book and where the ideas came from— including the big twist. It was especially fun because she had been at the memorial at Willowbrook the day before and was able to tell us about meeting some of the doctors and attendants who helped to blow the whistle, per se. We discussed society during this time, and why it was often recommended for parents to place children in a place like Willowbrook. We discussed how parents could see their child in that state, not say anything- many of us agreed that during that time, people deferred to 'authority’ and took the doctors at their word. Today, parents question and challenge authority, especially when it comes to doctors and teachers. We agreed this was one of the saddest stories we had heard and had time wrapping our heads around the fact that while it’s a fictional story the setting, conditions, and many of the characters were real. We also didn’t see the twist coming (Ellen said that even her editor didn’t see that one!).”

Menu: "Pancakes and bacon, a build-your-own-oatmeal bar, and orange juice —spiked with champagne instead of sedatives, as in the book."

Literary Lovelies: "This was truly a fascinating book that led to a great discussion about mental health. We couldn't believe it was based on a true story! We all loved this fascinating story, and it was heartbreaking to know it was based on a real situation. The subject matter was difficult but we all enjoyed the historical fiction and somewhat true crime genre in this well-written and detailed novel. Wiseman graphically describes the school, where employees brutalize and demean their residents. It’s after a reporter sneaks into the facility— the journalist is Geraldo Rivera, who was instrumental in getting the facility rehabbed and shut down —that light is shed on these inhumane conditions. We discussed the women brought to this facility, mental health, and the management of those needing special care. It was terrible that couldn’t speak up for themselves, and that no one ever checked on them This dark and gritty story will stay with us for a long time—it was so interesting and led to a fabulous discussion. This is my first time reading this author and I will be looking for more of her books."⁣

Elizabeth's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas; Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey; North Wales Area Public Library; Pennsylvania
WHEN WE LET GO  by Rochelle Weinstein

A novel about mothers and daughters, loss and acceptance, the lessons that come from heartbreak, and the healing it takes to embrace the joy of a second chance.Elizabeth’s Book Chat: "A wonderful match We had a very lively discussion with author Rochelle Weinstein and the book was so well received. Everyone loved it! There were different elements of the story that each of us could relate to which made it even more interesting. The author's style of writing is genuine and heartfelt. As we read the words on the page, we also were able to actually feel the emotions. What was very interesting was when members asked Rochelle where the idea for the tree came from. The response kept everyone chatting for a while. Great interaction!”
Menu: Charcuterie board, lemon cake, and wine

Book Club Girls Sparta: “A new author to us, and this moving story was enjoyed by all. Many could relate to the protagonist's profound level of loss and trauma and how one moment in her young life altered her future relationships with those closest to her. Trauma, grief, mother-daughter, sister, family, forgiveness, strength, and courage were all key factors that resonated with our readers. We discussed the importance of self-care and women surrounding themselves with people they can trust and open up to, and give themselves permission to move on and heal. We enjoyed the mother/ daughter theme. Read this moving novel if you are looking for a story of mothers, daughters, first love, second chances, and the powerful bond of sisters. “

 

Menu: "Wine and chocolate for self-care, a summer picnic with farm-to-table foods, lemonade, tea, and homemade fruit pies, based on Avery's garden and farm."
North Wales Area Library Book Club: “A big THANK YOU! This book was excellent! The believable characters drew readers in, and the settings were easy to picture. Several interesting relationships and ways of dealing with loss were explored. It was a well-built novel with interesting situations about dealing with grief, family relationships, and trust."

Over-Readers Anonymous of Cumming, Georgia, Reckless Readers of Eastford, Connecticut, Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, Wine Club with a Book Problem, Woodstock, Georgia
OVERKILL by Sandra Brown (Grand Central, 8/22)
A crime thriller in which a conflict of conscience between a former football star and an ambitious state prosecutor swiftly intensifies into a fight for their lives.

Reckless Readers: "OVERKILL satisfied the thriller need, romance desire, and contemplative fiction we all love. It was an excellent book club book that sparked much conversation: the question of whether or not we would want to stay alive, or if we could actually pull the plug ourselves on a loved one, after being in a coma with no brain activity. The characters had moral and religious struggles with this choice, and we empathized with them. We loved the spicy romance in the book —with much discussion about how much more of it everyone wanted—as well as the direction of the story. Eban’s character sent us on another heated conversation about entitlement and the evils that wealth can add to an already evil person’s being. Sandra Brown did an excellent job of making us hate him, and kept us page-turning hoping for a better outcome. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy a little romance in their thriller, and heavy discussion points."

Menu: "Our drink—the Blue Overkill (vodka blue Curacao, and pineapple juice) was tasty, like Zach, and packed a punch like Kate. Paired with charcuterie."

Over-Readers Anonymous: “We recommend OVERKILL for those who enjoy crime fiction, suspense thrillers, and contemporary issues with a little romance thrown in! Our book club has enjoyed several Sandra Brown novels, they're entertaining and also touch on issues that lead to a deeper discussion. We discussed the ethical dilemma at the foundation of OVERKILL and delved into medical ethics, end-of-life planning, the characters, the plot, the judicial system, and the celebrity spotlight. As we all have roots in the south, we liked the Atlanta, New Orleans, and North Carolina settings. OVERKILL was action-packed and easy-to-read."

Menu: “As a BBQ menu was suggested by the author, met at a local restaurant for pulled pork!." (see Sandra Brown's recipe)

Book Club Girls: "An enjoyable read with developed characters an incredible, setting, and suspense well paced throughout the book.  We discussed what we would do if faced with the same situation as Zach even though none of our members have had to face this situation. What many of us thought should have been a clear-cut choice, as we wove through the narrative we came to understand that there were so many layers to this that came into play that it wasn't as simple as we believed in the beginning. The most hated character was the villain Eban and although he is fictional, we agreed there are real people in the world like him. When you are so wealthy that you can make so many disastrous choices as a human with no consequences was highlighted. What would have happened to someone else who wasn't as wealthy? Also, we all agreed that no one really thought about Rebecca, until they were forced to, which led us to agree it was unacceptable for her to continue to be victimized in a way for so very long. But, if she was allowed to let go in the beginning, there wouldn't be as much of a plot line for the book. Loved the premise of the story, it gave lots of topics for discussion.

Menu: "We recommend bbq, pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, and any tailgating type of foods that would be a nod to North Carolina and football."

Wine Club with a Book Problem: "OVERKILL is a good thought-provoking story. The topic of life support and having your affairs in order gave us a good discussion, and we enjoyed the setting of Atlanta since we live in the area. Former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Zach Bridger has MPA for his ex-wife, Rebecca, who has been placed on life support after a violent assault. Zach has kept Rebecca on life support for 4 years to honor her parent's wishes. The attacker, Eban, gets an early release from prison and Kate Lennon, a brilliant state prosecutor, is determined to put him back behind bars. If Rebecca were to die, Eban could be retried on a new charge: murder. Zach is asked to make an impossible choice: keep her on life support or take her off and put Eban back in prison. We discussed that no one really thought about Rebecca. Zach was concerned about how he would be portrayed by the media, her father keeping her alive to punish Zach, and Eban boasting how his father's money got him out of prison early and now he can bet back to partying. It was unacceptable to keep Rebecca on life-support for so long.

Menu: "There are many football analogies and football references throughout the book. We put together a Tailgate Football Menu: Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Balsamic Fig Infused Burger Bites, Wings, Homemade Salsa & Chips plus Guacamole, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Pizza Pepper Poppers."

Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; CT Lit, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Kings Chapel Book Club  Arrington, Tennessee,
ALL MY RAGE by Sabaa Tahir (Penguin Teen, 3/22)

A contemporary novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents.

Reading Between the Wines: "We all enjoyed the book and thought the author did a wonderful job of creating flawed and 'real' characters that we grew to care about."This was a great match for our club. Our discussion included immigrants' struggles to preserve their culture while trying to achieve the American Dream, the nature of generational trauma, the opioid crisis, and the role of faith in people's lives- so many things to discuss! We became invested in the characters of Noor and Sal and the traumatic events that they and their families, experienced impacted us, and provided a lot of jumping-off points for discussion. Watching their growth throughout the novel gave it a hopeful ending. We loved this book and were fully invested in these characters, and reading it was a very emotional journey. Recommended to clubs that enjoy books discussing contemporary themes, strong characters, and emotional reads.

Menu: We met at a local Indian/Pakistani restaurant to enjoy food discussed and eaten in the novel: chai tea, poori, halwa, Chicken Kashmiri, and paratha, among other dishes!

Page Ladies: “We went in expecting a contemporary story about friendship and forgiveness but what we got was so much more. Thank you, Sabaa Tahir, for sharing this devastating but absolutely beautiful story with us! This is a powerful story that affected each of us differently. It's one that will stay with us for a long time. Until The Fight Salahudin and Noor were more than friends; they were family. Now, Sal is struggling with keeping his family's motel afloat as his mother's health fails and his father loses himself to alcoholism. Meanwhile, Noor is working at her uncle's liquor store and hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him and Juniper forever. Sal and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst. This is an emotional and moving story about friendship, forgiveness, and heartache; it’s like taking a deep dive into a pool full of emotions. Grief, betrayal and forgiveness, loss, rage— you will feel every single one and more in this book. No one from our book club was able to finish this book with dry eyes. There are so many topics that were brought up and all were not easy to discuss: death, drugs, prejudice, and physical abuse. The writing is absolutely wonderful—Sabaa Tahir is a fabulous storyteller. She has a way with words that touches each of her readers.“

Get Woke Book Club “Members arrived with books displaying colorful post-it tabs, which visually reflected the common greeting, 'there is so much to think about in this novel!A group of mothers and grandmothers very much enjoyed the novel by a young adult author and its detailed and realistic picture of the struggles that immigrants face in relocating to the United States and of the family traditions and secrets that follow the immigrants to their new home. The culture and religious traditions of Pakistan were vividly described in an engaging storyline and beautiful prose. The main plot follows the lives of two Pakistani teens, who are struggling with school, personal tragedies, and love. They are surrounded by other well-drawn characters who add depth to the story. We discussed the many plot lines and themes: diversity, forgiveness, hope, family relationships, communication, secrecy, and loss. Tahir fills the novel with music, probably an excellent technique for adolescent readers—they can easily relate to the messages and emotions through familiar songs.  Noor uses songs and their lyrics to help cope with the conflicts in her life. 

Members shared selfies with short reflections:  “Music plays a role in helping us deal with life’s adversities.*  When is a relationship worth salvaging?  *Fortunately forgiveness does not have an expiration date. It waits and always hopes to be the last word. *Peeling through the complicated layers of life we can see, appreciate and begin to understand one another. * One of my favorite quotes ‘Great passions grow into monsters in the dark of the mind; but if you share them with loving friends they remain human, they can be endured.’ * Tahir effectively introduces sections with lines from  Elizabeth Bishop's poem, “One Art.  Many characters ‘lost’ things: family, money, businesses, dignity. A lesson we all may need is that losing isn’t always bad.: 'the art of losing’s not too hard to master’ *While keeping a secret is meant to protect someone at some point, keeping that secret might be doing more harm.”

CT Lit Book Club: "We’ve been exploring new genres, and we enjoyed ALL MY RAGE, a heartbreaking story that touches on a lot of sensitive topics which gave us plenty to discuss.ALL MY RAGE introduced us to Pakistani culture. This young adult story follows two Pakistani teens growing up in a small town in California and the grim realities of their American dream. Even through difficult times their cultural norms held them together as a family, even if not by blood, the young adult characters are each facing their own struggles—the death of a loved one, racism, alcoholism, drugs, abuse— they are navigating grief, failure, and forgiveness, and must ultimately lean on one another to make sense of the chaos they are facing. It was shocking to imagine our younger selves in situations like these and we spent time reflecting on how the kids navigated various situations. One that stood out is how Salahudin and Noor dealt with the drug bust, and how their relationship persevered. We also discussed how Salahudin came to terms with his abuse. We recommend ALL MY RAGE for clubs learning about other cultures, family drama, and historical fiction."

Kings Chapel: “Thank you for the chance to read this insightful novel. We had a fabulous discussion and I think it was good to read outside our usual genres. This is a heart-wrenching story about two teens from Pakistani families living in Juniper, California, dealing with tough circumstances, basically all by themselves. We don’t read much YA, It was out of the comfort zone for most of the ladies. but the tough topics represented in this story, such as grief, alcoholism, physical abuse, and racism, were easier to handle in the Young Adult format. Understanding why the characters made the choices they did was something we discussed quite a bit. As teens, they made decisions that were wrong but for the right reasons and it was interesting to get in the minds of these teens and try to understand why. As parents, it was hard to read at times, feeling so sad for these kids who have had such a hard life. But seeing them grow and learn from mistakes and stand up for others, gave the book a nice redemption quality in the end. Recommended for groups that enjoy YA coming of age and social justice." 



Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut, Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
Lit Ladies Read, Melbourne, Florida; Thrillers by The Book / Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
Thrillers by The Book / Costa Mesa, California, CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut recommend:
THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur 7/22)
Paris Peralta is suspected of killing her celebrity husband, and her long-hidden past now threatens to destroy her future.

Reckless Readers: An excellent match! Everyone was excited to talk about the twists. We had much to discuss with THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK. Members were messaging before we met, needing to talk about the book as they were finishing it. It was like a month-long meeting, behind the scenes! Usually, if continuous discussion is prompted, the book was a hit. To say the book was twisty is an understatement. This book was twisty than a country back road! A few of us seasoned readers predicted the big twists, but most of us were surprised and shocked. Together, we all needed to unload about the horrendous mothering and terrible situations that Joey was put in throughout her childhood. All of the women in our group are mothers, which makes the book hit us so much harder. But the book wasn’t just about sexual abuse and trauma. There is a high-profile murder that could potentially unearth secrets that need to be kept hidden. The conversation got animated when we discussed Joelle's charge with murder, and there was much discussion about the relationship between Ruby and Joey. As mothers, we found it hard to imagine how Ruby could treat Joey the way she did and put her in such horrible situations. It was heartbreaking and disturbing ."

Chilly Thrillies: “Thank you for giving our group the gift of a 5-star read, a perfect match! We were engaged from start to finish and loved how much there was to discuss. It had the thrills of a book with great character development and storyline. We discussed narcissism and how it affects relationships, specifically parent-child, how the way you are raised affects your instincts and perspective of others, fight or flight and how we would react in certain scenarios in the book, sexual abuse, and its long-term effects, age gap relationships and how people can be evil, but the 'lesser evil.’ We debated which storyline in the dual timeline was more action-packed—something hard to accomplish. Normally, we’re more interested in one storyline, We each were able to predict one of the twists, but we're stumped on the others and loved that there was more than one twist revealed. I was so impressed, I read Hillier’s JAR OF HEARTS. Recommended for those who enjoy a page-turning thriller with complex characters that you root for."

Menu: We made a Filipino Chicken Adobo recipe similar to what Paris makes towards the end of the book (she used pork instead of chicken). We were inspired by her description of how learning to cook was so special when she was going through such a dark time.

Lit Ladies Read: “We enjoyed this twisty, thriller/mystery. and had a very lively discussion! We had so much to discuss. We enjoyed the storytelling, shifting between past and present. and different points of view. This really helped to fully develop the characters. Although some predicted twists, we were still engrossed in the story and wanted to see how things played out.
“Our discussion centered around the characters and their relationships. One of our favorites was that between Jimmy and Paris and the highlight of our discussion was the relationship between Paris/Joey and Ruby. We disagreed about how adult Paris should have handled Ruby and decided that we had to agree to disagree about our feelings towards Paris, but we all agreed that this book was a hit for our group. The mystery is multi-layered, with deep characters. Many members put other books by this author on their ‘to be read’ list."

Thrillers by the Book Club, DFW: "This was our best GalleyMatch, perfect for our group and for book clubs that like dark and twisted mysteries“We all loved how the book started with a very intriguing and captivating scene Joey’s background was very interesting and her relationship with her mother was so toxic. There are a few mysteries in the story. Besides trying to find out if Paris murdered her husband, we’re also trying to work out Paris’ past, how did she go from living with an abusive unstable mother, who is now in prison, to living a wealthy life married to a famous celebrity? I enjoyed Paris’ past the most I loved the intensity in the chapters that focused on Paris’ childhood and upbringing. Ruby, her mother, was such an intriguing and complex character—a terrible mother, self-centered and irresponsible, which caused Paris a lot of pain and uncertainty. While a few members predicted the twist, it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of this dark and suspenseful story.”

Thrillers by The Book, Costa Mesa: “This was an excellent pick for our club! The majority liked or loved this one! Some said it was one of their favorite picks of the year. Many of the members enjoyed the mystery of learning about the murderer in the end, and the alternating timelines of the female main character. There were a variety of opinions about who committed the crime.”

CT Lit Book Club: "This was the perfect match for us! We have been craving a thriller and this was on all of our anticipated release lists. We all enjoyed the book, and were so excited to have a chance to preview it! We discussed how jam-packed this book was with plot points. There was much to hold your attention and give you room to try and predict what would happen. We loved how creative Hillier is— there is one scene in specific that was so creative and will leave us remembering the book forever! (hint hint, ice skates). Half of us had read another book by Hillier, and we all agreed that we want to read more Hiller titles."


The Ladies of Autumnwood, Grand Isle, New York, Mom and I Book Club of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, r
ecommend:

THE MATCHMAKER'S GIFT BY Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin's Press, 9/20/22)
 An intergenerational story about two women—a grandmother and granddaughter—who share the same incredible gift: the ability to identify soulmates

The Ladies of Autumnwood: We loved THE MATCHMAKER’S GIFT! Reading about Raskin’s pickles and the knish shops brought back wonderful memories of shopping at a pickle store in lower Manhattan barrels with barrels on the sidewalk and enjoying a great knish. These memories, among other topics, helped to round out our animated discussion last night. Members didn’t know much about ‘yentas’ or matchmakers and their role in creating Jewish courtship relations. We enjoyed learning about the bravery of the young girl, who beyond the fact that she was Jewish opened our eyes to the challenges of women, not unlike what some have to endure to break that glass ceiling today."
Menu: “We enjoyed Challah and red wine, and took home jars of pickles that I designed with a Raskin’s label.”

My Mom and I: “This pick was perfection. Not only did it match our love of magical realism but we agreed it’s the best book we’ve read this year. You found the perfect book for us!”
“We discussed magic, love, strong women, lovable characters, and the absolute beauty of the writing. We recommend this book to those who enjoy magical realism, foodie fiction, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. The author wrote a book that we treasure and we’re raving about it to everyone. This is a book that you feel like hugging at the end. We absolutely loved it. It’s a gem! “

Menu: "A smorgasbord! We had a blast capturing foods mentioned in the book lox and capers, cornichons— we decorated pickle jars with ‘The Pickle King’, as in the book. We had magical color-changing butterfly tea, as we wanted some magic to go with the story, and chocolate babka for dessert, like our beloved characters baked.

St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri;  Mom and I Book Club, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania;  Pittsford Moms Book Club, Pittsford, New York, and Port Wine and Book Society Readers, Port Washington, Wisconsin recommend:
OTHER BIRDS by Sarah Addison Allen (St Martins, Press, 8/30/22)
A novel about a young woman who claims her deceased mother's apartment in an island town, where she meets she meets quirky and secretive neighbors.

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: "A great match! We felt like this was the perfect mix of themes, giving us questions and a variety of topics to discuss. Having an arc made us feel like ‘VIPs’ to the publishing process. This novel was cozy, nostalgic, and heartfelt! Allen’s characters help redefine the word ‘family’ in the most beautiful way. We discussed the definition of home and chosen family, food as a love language —and inspiration for potlucks for book club!! The setting—so realistic and magical, the imagery of the birds and the meaning. OTHER BIRDS takes you on a magical journey of youth, delicately balancing both beauty and sadness. We recommend this book to clubs who are fans of magical realism. It was fuzzy, cozy --the perfect happy read."

Menu: "We made amazing foods to match the book: cornmeal air-fried tomatoes, potato chips on Hawaiian rolls, Mac & cheese, cornbread, Palomas, and marshmallow popcorn."

My Mom and I: "Thank you for a rare opportunity to preview our favorite author’s new book! Sarah Addison Allen's first novel GARDEN SPELLS introduced us to our favorite genre, magical realism. I saved the book for the perfect moment and then tore into it. After waiting eight years for her new book I knew I’d read it too quickly and, that’s what happened We are Italian and loved the ‘found family’ theme and 'food is love' philosophy running through the novel. We enjoyed the foodie talk, animals, ghosts, and magical elements. All characters and storylines were interesting and mysterious; sometimes beautiful, but sometimes ugly but always interesting. Several big reveals had us slack-jawed!

While OTHER BIRDS is a little sadder and darker than her previous works, the magic and the love and the beauty left the reader with a love of the characters and a belief that as the characters live beyond 'the end' of the book all turned out well for them. And you will want that because you will be left loving nearly everything about OTHER BIRDS! We recommend this to those who like magical realism and foodie fiction."

Menu: "Cornmeal marshmallow dishes based on a character: Fluffernutters (marshmallow whip and peanut butter sandwiches), tamale pie stuffed peppers, cornmeal sugar cookies, and marshmallow-flavored lip balm as a keepsake."

Pittsford Moms: "We had so much fun with OTHER BIRDS! We loved this found family story and all the special characters! The novel was a good fit for our club. We try to switch up genres/authors and most members like books with some magic realism elements. We felt it was an easy read and generally flew through the book - Thanks! kept our attention. We loved the story of found family, the characters, and their backgrounds. Books with paranormal/magic realism can be hit or miss for most members but they worked well with this story and added background and historical context for many of the characters. We had a great discussion about the twists and the characters' diverse backgrounds— we would have liked a little more depth to some characters that had very traumatic backgrounds. We recommend OTHER BIRDS to groups that enjoy a touch of magic realism and found family stories!”

Menu: "S’mores bars— the story takes place on Marsh Island and all restaurants in town have something marshmallow on their menu.” 

Port Wine and Book Society: "A great match for our club! We recommend this enchanting story written from the heart, with interesting characters and subplots.”Zoey was such a delightful, open and honest young character— we all adored her. We liked how the story unfolded by hearing different characters' viewpoints in each chapter. The Dellawisps added fun and interest, some of us thought they may have stolen Charlotte's money.  We loved the descriptions of Mallow Island - we live in a small tourist town in Wisconsin and really identified with that. The highlighted passages in Lizbeth’s copy of Sweet Mallow were ironic because she didn't live her life according to any of them - she was so stuck in the past it literally killed her. We enjoyed a unique story, quirky characters, and the theme of food as friendship/love."

Menu: “The detail around food was great! We  made several dishes with corn or cornmeal to celebrate it: Polenta and shrimp, fresh corn salad, corn dip and corn chips, and popcorn.”

CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; KU Endowment, Lawrence, Kansas; and Girls Clubhouse, Auburn, California recommend
MIRROR GIRLS by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 2/22)
A gothic horror novel about twin sisters separated across the color line after the murder of their parents (YA historical fiction/  magical realism/fantasy).

CT Lit: “MIRROR GIRLS was a great discussion starter and the perfect book to read with a group. It took us out of our comfort zone and was eye-opening, a reminder that segregation is not so far in the past. We are transported to the South—and blatant racism —which as a group of white women living in Connecticut, we don't have experience with. We follow twin sisters Magnolia and Charlie, separated at birth—one raised as Black in New York City and one raised as white-passing in the Deep South— who learn the secret everyone has kept from them. The novel portrayed how indoctrinated people were, and in some cases ready to push racism aside when it would benefit them. We discussed how Charlie's view on life differs after growing up in the more liberal Harlem and compared it to growing up in Connecticut and traveling in different areas in the United States. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy Brit Bennett's THE VANISHING HALF.”

Page Ladies: "We all enjoyed this historical fiction with a paranormal twist that is both heartbreaking and beautiful. The book offered many different topics, generating a nice discussion: the time period, the girls as individuals, their different upbringings and when they came together, the decision to separate them and not tell them about each other, and much more! A wonderful story about twin girls Charlie and Magnolia who were separated after their parents died for love across the color line and have no idea the other exists. Magnolia. raised in Georgia, is the white heiress to a cotton plantation. Charlie, raised in Harlem with her Nana, is a young Black organizer. When Charlie's grandmother falls ill, they return to Georgia. When the girls do meet Magnolia discovers her reflection has disappeared. They couldn’t be more different, but they will need each other to put the hauntings of the past to rest, break the mirrors’ deadly curse, and discover the meaning of sisterhood in a racially divided land. Seeing the girls come together to create that sisterly bond was wonderful, as is the writing, and pacing. The curse and the ghosts added an interesting twist to the story.”

Girls Clubhouse: "We all enjoyed MIRROR GIRLS and we tried to capture the supernatural aspect of the book with mirror images” Charlie and Magnolia both born in the South but separated at birth live separate lives but face the double threat of racism and ghosts. We discussed how ‘Colored Town ‘is equally foreign to both girls, despite being born there; contrasting with where they were each raised. Magnolia knows the rules of the general area, while Charlie knows how things are done —how stories are told, some traditions. The concept of the veil as the place between this world and the afterlife was used by the author also as the place between the white world and the colored world, which made this gothic story much more intriguing than if it had been singularly used. This forces both girls to examine who they are and what they are willing to live with. Members enjoy supernatural books, and the idea of ghosts to help guide the characters was appealing. We found it to be a ‘light’ supernatural read. We recommend to clubs who enjoy gothic young adult novels."

KU Endowment: "Everyone loved the book. Some members were pleasantly surprised by the way supernatural elements were combined with social commentary and realistic events. The author was able to shine a light on the atrocities of slavery and segregation without being heavy-handed and shows us a playbook for fighting back through the strong and determined sisters, Charlie and Magnolia. The past can haunt us but that doesn't mean it has to control us, and love will conquer hate. One member discussed the book with her 86-year-old mother, who shared memories of her experiences during segregation. We all felt hopeful and inspired by the book and loved the characters. We talked about what it would be like not to know your origins and what would inspire someone to fight against things they know are wrong when it could cost them everything. We recommend to those that enjoy strong characters, historical fiction, and being inspired."

The Revivals Book Club The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas; Zoom-Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma
THE CICADA TREE by Robert Gwaltney, Jr.
A novel about an 11-year-old, whisky-drinking, piano prodigy who encounters a wealthy family of supernatural beauty.

The Revivals: “Have we missed out on a genre of remarkable books or were we gifted a gem in a genre we might not have read? The debut novel THE CICADA TREE soared to the top of the 2022 best reads. We dare you not to highlight dozens of richly written sentences; our galleys are filled with colorful post-it notes. The discussion questions gave deeper insight into the themes and allegories we hadn’t considered. We agreed that the book fit into genres of southern gothic, magical realism, and coming-of-age. We explored biblical allegories: good and evil, Jesus, John the Baptist, Cain and Abel, plague, water, and fire. Once every 13 years, the cicadas emerge in tremendous numbers to mate and disrupt human life and comfort; some believe they hold our secrets. Gwaltney has a gift for bringing all together in an unforgettable book appealing to multiple genres and readers. We discussed how music and the song of the Cicadas featured prominently, and the writing allowed us to hear the music as the book’s climax approached. There are themes of coming-of-age, transformation, and rebirth. Gwaltney poetically foreshadows the storyline early as the story’s protagonist, a typical tween experiencing growing pains, insecurity, and self-recrimination sheds her childhood as a cicada does. Triumphing over evil, the novel reaches an angelic and lyrical end. There are as many ways to love this book as there are to interpret it–we dare you to read it! We all loved this novel.”

Menu: Iced Tea, Autumn Apple & Feta Salad, Watermelon Salad, Feta, Mint; Skillet Cheddar Cornbread, Southern Pecan Praline Cookies, Coffee on a garden patio.

Zoom-Chilly Thrillies: We had a great time reading and discussing THE CICADA TREE, a wonderful match that pushed us out of our comfort zone, with its unique blend of genres— historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. This was a unique story! We agreed it was unpredictable and gave much to discuss. Some words members shared to describe the writing style and story were: Gothic, descriptive, imaginative, twisted, mystical, humorous, innocent, and unpredictable! We were excited about the discussion and most finished it quickly-after the halfway point, unable to put it down.

"We discussed symbolism, class differences, racism, religion, southern culture, character motivations, and family relationships. and how the main character was looking up to a family she aspired to. We discussed our childhood oddities, raised by the mention of the character's liking the feel of pain. We enjoyed that it was told through a child's lens, while dark but the child's perspective ensured curiosity and humor even when horrifying things are happeningThe writing is creative and descriptive and made us think about things such as how you hear music in a new light. The ending was haunting and beautiful and there were many shocked reactions!

"We also discussed the movies or books we thought possibly influenced the author, including REBECCA, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and MEAN GIRLS., We are eager to read Gwaltney's next novel!"

Menu: “Iced tea was sipped!"

Famished for Fiction: “A wonderful opportunity to read a complex story with a bit of mystery and unexpected twists and turns. Our group is diverse, and open to new and different genres, and appreciated the opportunity to discover this book. We discussed the focus of music and its impact on the progression of the story. Music is a major theme throughout the piece, whether it is the music Mr. Mayfield had composed for his wife or the musical virtuosity of the Mayfield children. We explored the cicada's presence: cicadas are seasonal and burrow in the ground, so they are equivalent to all of the secrets that are buzzing around the town of Providence, connecting the Mayfields to Etta Mae and Analeise, and the link between their molting and the growing pains the main characters are experiencing.”

Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Books and Brew, Allendale, Michigan;  Carrollton Book Buddies, Carrollton, Texas;
BluStocking Literacy Society, West Allis, Wisconsin

THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET by Sara Ackerman (Mira, 8/22)
A brilliant female code breaker and a pilot on a top-secret mission come together in this dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.

Ranch Readers: Our book club enjoyed this book as we read a non-fiction WWII book about codebreakers and many have traveled to Hawaii so both the theme and setting are familiar. The storyline was realistic and we enjoyed the dual timelines with relevance at the end of the book when the characters are planting a memorial garden on the plantation. We discussed our mother's vital roles during the war, such as working in a war plant, how women were disregarded and treated as second-class citizens, and the situations where the same treatment happens today.We discussed our Hawaiian travels: topography, lava fields, ocean conditions, and coffee plantations. Those that have visited the Mauna Kea Hotel described it. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy historical fiction and WWII stories.”

Menu: “Banana chocolate chip cake/ banana pudding topping, tropical fruit salad, Huli-huli Chicken.”

BluStocking Literacy Society: “
A perfect match! We enjoy historical fiction/mystery that pulls us in and we all anticipated the discussion. We discussed the timeline and connections between the two eras, and the uncertainty that women codebreakers felt reflected by Lu as she struggles to establish herself as a journalist. Isabel walked a line between expressing her intelligence and thoughts and second-guessing herself and stepping back. It was fascinating to consider women in a secret intelligence role and the obstacles they had to overcome.”
Menu: "
Wacky Cake, a classic chocolate cake born of necessity for WWII rationing.”

Carrollton Book Buddies: “A brilliant female codebreaker. An ‘unbreakable’ Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. My book club loved THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET! The dual timeline novel is set in Hawaii. We enjoyed discussing the amazing roles women played in World War ll. While most of us decided we'd have been secretaries, one member thought the radar plotter sounded like a fit. We appreciated that there were those that worked as mechanics, pilots ferrying planes, medics, and of course, the codebreakers! The Dungeon where the codebreakers worked and the men in charge were a hot topic-the smoke, the drinking, the snobbery, all appalling. Just the thought of approaching the stairs and entering drew lots of remarks! We read the author's explanation of the difference between codes and ciphers and concluded the codebreakers were brilliant! We discussed survivor's guilt, the way Germans, Italians, and the Japanese were treated here in the states, and men in power and misuse of that power. We appreciated the way the threads were all tied up by the ending, though a surprise. The stunning descriptions of the Mauna Kea Hotel and the surroundings have us all wishing for a trip to Hawaii. We appreciated the brilliant, unique roles of women in war."

Menu: "We met at tropical Tommy Bahamas restaurant for a chopped salad with shrimp, coconut shrimp, and Mahi Mahi Tacos. Tropical beverages included. Cloud Coconut Martinis and Jalapeno Margaritas."

Books and Brew: "The story takes place in 1943 and 1965. It's 1943, and Isabel Cooper, who has lost her older brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor, is working as a code breaker, solving Japanese naval codes. Isabel seizes an opportunity to solve codes in Hawaii to locate her brother’s friends and learn about his life. In Hawaii, she stumbles into a life-changing mystery. In 1965, aspiring journalist Lu Freitas is traveling to the Mauna Kea Hotel for its grand opening, when she befriends a famous woman. When her new friend disappears, Lu investigates and soon uncovers a missing link to the past. We discussed women in history, World War II, the relationship between the main character to her friend and her brother's friends, her internal struggle, and women's roles during the war. I was so grateful to have received this book early for my book club! I was so immersed in the characters and their story, I couldn't put it down! Five stars!"

Reading is My Cardio, Smithfield, Rhode Island;  Bookish Ladies, Coto De Caza, California; Next Chapter, Leesburg, Virginia
SIX DAYS IN ROME by Francesca Giacco (Grand Central, 5/22)
A young artist travels to Rome to heal a broken heart, where she confronts loneliness and intimacy, rage and desire in this debut novel.

Reading is My Cardio: "We adored this lyrical and atmospheric debut! It was refreshing to read a book with realistically flawed characters and where not everything gets tied up in a perfect bow. This character-driven story explores relationships in so many forms - family, romantic, and with one's self - and the writing is just beautiful. Truly a perfect book for summer, transporting us to Rome for a captivating six days. We discussed how this isn't a book with a lot of plot and yet it kept us interested throughout. We loved the writing and many of us highlighted passages that we shared and discussed, and the group also touched on whether we'd be able to travel solo as the main character did. Another subject that came up was how the narrative is almost stream of consciousness which some of our group enjoyed more than others. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy being transported to another place and appreciate character-driven books about self-discovery."

Menu: "Italian-themed cocktail party featuring charcuterie, Aperol Spritzes, and a gelato bar for dessert."

Bookish Ladies: "SIX DAYS IN ROME was beautifully written We enjoyed the food and descriptions around Rome! We loved how the book was written in terms of description and character development. It was a lighter, summer read. We felt l the character had a lot to work out but she never quite figured out what it was so there were a lot of questions left up for interpretation."

Menu: Italian rosé, homemade flatbreads with Italian pesto, mozzarella, fresh basil, aged balsamic, and roasted tomatoes.

Next Chapter: “Everyone agreed that Francesca Giacco's writing was beautiful,—and it was fun to read her book looking for food and drink that members can make and enjoy at book club! Emilia heads off on a six-day trip to Rome—it was supposed to be a romantic trip with her then-boyfriend Michael. but that’s not possible as he is married! With six days in Rome, Emilia will have time to reflect on why it wouldn’t work, why she deserves better, and time to enjoy the food and wine on her trip. We discussed what we thought happened to Michael: we had differing opinions to whether he had died or was with someone else or married. During her trip, she reflects on her relationship with her father and brother, and has lots of yummy food and drink throughout. We were happy that she met someone new and Emilia Is able to focus on herself and her art. Her six days in Rome weren’t what she had planned when she booked the trip, but sometimes better things come out of bad situations. Ah, the magic of Italy! One of our members took her book to Rome and shared photos."

Menu: “We enjoyed Aperol Spritz cocktails, a charcuterie board, tiramisu, and wine-soaked grapes”.

Peoria Book Rack, Illinois, Thrillers by the Book Orange County, California, Novels N Latte, Hudson Valley, New York
THE GOOD SISTER by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 2021)
A psychological thriller about the lies that bind two sisters.

Peoria Book Rack: “We agreed it was fast-paced and a quick read. The story keeps you guessing as you try to figure out the family dynamic between sisters Rose and Fern. the journals, their relationship with the mom, the twists! We also discussed Hepworth's versatility as an author. She has a solid list of backlist books that many of us are excited to check out! We recommend for book clubs that enjoy family thrillers.”

Thrillers by the Book: “Everyone loves Sally Hepworth, and this was a favorite! A likable main character and a fun story. We talked about representation in books, and the importance of character-driven books, and how her writing style is relatable and easy to read."

Novels N Latte: “Perfect for our club. We love good twisted family dynamics, and this sister story gave us a lot to discuss, including Fern's autism spectrum and which was actually the good sister.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, East Lawrence High School Book Club of Trinity, Alabama, Reckless Readers of  Eastford, Connecticut, and North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania
DARK AND SHALLOW LIES by Ginny Myers Sain (Penguin Teen, 2021)

A supernatural thriller about a teen girl who disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp.

Reckless Readers: The story hooked the teens— they enjoyed the love story and the witchy aspect, and our adult readers also loved the book. We included teen daughters who wanted to join, and teachers and librarians in the group who wanted to preview it before ordering for their locations. A few of them have not read YA books, so it was a nice and unexpected change for them. We liked the Southern setting, and how the author submerged us in Bayou. From gigantic gators ( Willie Nelson) to psychic abilities, shapeshifter, and Aurora readers, this book is a full experience. The end was shocking and fit the story. We recommend this book for those that enjoy a hint of magic within a southern setting.

Menu: "Southern delights mentioned in the book: Honey’s Pralines, Willie Nelson’s Gator Piss cocktail—with Midori, lime juice, rum, sweet & sour mix, and seltzer—Cajun wings and shrimp dip."

North Wales Area Library: “Our group had one of the best discussions we can remember!”This was an excellent selection and discussion. The book brought the Louisiana bayou setting to life. One member was raised in the area and she especially thought the setting description was spot on. The group wondered why the word ‘shallow’ was included in the title: The lies did not seem shallow. We debated the killer, books were pulled out and theories shared. The hurricane preparation made for interesting reading. We discussed why an outside investigation might not have happened. All said they would read another Sain book and looked forward to the next book in the series. We hope to have our adult group discuss DARK AND SHALLOW LIES with our teen book club! Our group rates books with 1-5 stars. The lowest rating in the group was 4.5! We recommend this book to clubs who enjoy reading outside of the box.”

ELHS Book Club: “Thank you for providing yet another wonderful book for our students! We discussed the setting bayous, swamps, cypress trees, alligators, shrimp boats and houses on stilts. The author did an excellent job painting a picture for the reader. We also discussed mental illness which is woven into the plot through a couple of characters via subtle behaviors and downright craziness.

Menu: jambalaya, gumbo, and pistolette rolls.

Book Club Girls: “Don't be turned away by the YA label, this book is for all ages. It was completely off our radar as far as genre, and many readers gave it five stars, and couldn't believe it was a debut novel. One member stayed up until 5 am to finish— she just had to know the end! The writing was fantastic. We discussed the book is marketed as a YA title, however, NONE of us are near that demographic We felt the characters could be aged up to the 30s and 40' and still make sense—they were just as vital to the storyline as the plot. We felt the novel touched on mystery and supernatural themes but also the deep-rooted impact of emotional trauma that shapes us. We discussed how keeping secrets buried for so many years by everyone caused so much heartache and pain. If truths were told from the start, what would the lives of the children have been like?? A great evening with lots of thoughtful discussions and fun had by all."

Menu: Hurricane Punch, crawfish, gator bites, cajun fried catfish, and cornbread.

Lit Ladies Read Book Club of Melbourne, Florida and Thrillers by the Book of Costa Mesa, California
THE YOUNGER WIFE by Sally Hepworth, (St. Martins Press, 4/22)
A new novel of domestic suspense that delves into a tangled web of family secrets, and lies.

Lit Ladies Read: "We loved this book and had a great discussion, which centered on the theme of perceived reality. We had a great debate about whether Stephen was actually an abuser or just misunderstood. The epilogue raised more questions than provided answers. Our group had varying opinions depending on which character’s perspective we were discussing. We all enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the ending and agreed it was very clever. It was a lot of fun to discuss our own opinions and debate what we believed to be the truth. Some of our members took the book at face value, while others questioned what we had read and what we believed to be the truth.

"We liked how the story was told with alternating points of view and followed along easily when the perspective changed. The book dealt with some serious topics but was written in a very light-hearted way that made it a quick enjoyable read."

Menu: “Heather would have been proud! We met at a country club,  in true Aston fashion. We had Mahi tacos and quesadillas in honor of Rachel and Darcy’s first date.”

Thrillers by the Book: "A perfect match! We’re big fans of Sally Hepworth! We loved the intriguing vibe the author created by not revealing right away who was involved in the accident from the opening scene. The story is based on many factors, dysfunctional family dynamics, abusive relationships, addiction, mental issues, and so many juicy secrets. We enjoyed Sally’s writing style and the characters she created. Sally has a way of making her characters very relatable and down to earth. We also enjoyed how she connected a piece of her real-life to one of the scenes in this book. Some of the secondary characters seemed to love Stephen but Heather and his kids suspect him of being abusive. The ending left us wondering if Stephen was in actual fact abusive. The women around him suffered a lot of 'accidents' but it’s never clear if they were really accidents or intentional. We recommend this title for book clubs that enjoy a family drama with a hint of suspense. Thank you for spoiling our book club!"

Page Ladies of Cleveland, Ohio, Bibliobibuli of San Diego, California, and HAH Reading Club of Kaukama, Wisconsin
THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY by Sherri L. Smith ((Penguin Young Readers, 2//20)
From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war.

Page Ladies: “Thank you for sharing this amazing, compelling, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking story about life in Japan during World War II. We were surprised by how much research went into it, and we are always interested in books that can teach us something. The story switches between Taro and Hana's perspectives so we see two sides of the story and what each experienced. Could we imagine being Hana, having to take care of the kamikaze pilots and then say goodbye to them, knowing that they will more than likely die? We talked about Hana and the pilot—how they felt at the beginning of the book versus the end— as well as the choices that surprised us and whether we would do the same. This was an emotional read and the pace moves well with the story."

Bibliobibuli: “Our members enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY, and our chat with author Sherri Smith was especially enjoyable. The novel is a fictionalized account of young kamikaze pilots and the teen-aged girls who provided platonic camaraderie and emotional support to them during World War II. Smith employs lyrical prose to introduce the reader to war-torn Japan and the youth culture that rallied around Emperor Hirohito. We appreciated learning more about the Japanese perspective on World War II. Hana’s disparaging remarks about Americans made us realize that we had never heard from the youth of Japan about the events of the war."

HAH Reading Club: We really enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY and its different perspectives on World War II We discussed how the novel reminded us of the current situation with the Ukrainian and Russian war. The author talked about remembering so it doesn’t happen again, and we discussed how emotional we felt about the abuse, propaganda, and conditioning that happened to prepare the civilians and boys for the war.
We compared how the reading of trauma and the emotional impact, ranges based on the age of the reader. We discussed the comparison of how being ready for death in a moment you can’t control, such as a reaction to an air raid, and the premeditated preparation of the pilots to body-crash was handled and how the author gave us both views. We also found how the invasion was perceived after all the preparations made to fight to the death as the expectation from the government. We recommend this novel to clubs looking for an emotional experience with a dive into other cultures."

Melanie's Book Club, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Riverside Readers, Plain City, Ohio; Amy's Book Club, Boulder Colorado
A LIGHT IN THE FOREST by Melissa Payne (Lake Union, 2022)
An emotional and suspenseful novel about the weight of secrets and the healing power of friends and family.

Riverside Readers: “We loved the Ohio setting and although Crystal was a made-up town, we have been to similar small towns and could picture the intent while we read. We appreciated the fun and quirky characters with a hint of underlying mystery in the book. don't know. We discussed the small town, the stereotypes, and the reality, not all small towns in Ohio are like that but we knew why the author picked to use the stereotypical poor/mining town in Appalachia. The timelines coordinated well together with the flashbacks. The characters of the small town were unique and we liked how they interacted with each other—they balanced the trauma. The reader's guide for this book was great. Thank you! We love being introduced to new authors and this time it helped build a new small community of readers, as this is a new book club."

Amy's Book Club: "The setting drew us in, the characters moved us, and the story had us in its grip —and caused many of us to stay up way too late reading. Everyone loved the characters and felt invested in their stories, and wanted to know more about some of the more peripheral characters. We discussed, justice, bullies getting away with things, whether the law is involved or not, and how the town changed regarding violence toward the LGBTQIA+ community. We discussed the repetition of ‘running’ at the beginning and how it would have felt to be Vega just trying to escape and survive; the town dynamics and why it was mostly accepted that the Harrisons could bully who they pleased without repercussions — contrasted with the senseless shooting that took place the night before we met in Colorado Springs and whether we thought there would or could be justice.
We discussed which of the lovable/heroic characters we enjoyed the most and whether Vega was a hero or a victim;, the pacing of how quickly Vega developed community in Crystal, secrets and why they should be kept or told; our reactions to Vega checking Instagram and our internal screamings at her of what we wanted her to do, the town's support of Eve, and what would happen next for all of them. We recommend A LIGHT IN THE FOREST to book clubs that enjoy complicated relationships and a multi-decade mystery to unravel." 
Melanie’s Book Club:" We loved the opportunity to preview A LIGHT IN THE FOREST. We are reading another Melissa Payne book this month, as a result! Everyone had positive comments and the book made for great conversation. One member who is stingy with book ratings gave our selection 5 stars. This is a thoughtful, well-written book that discusses real-life issues with great character development. A main discussion point was the different social issues addressed in the book and that the author didn't 'preach' about them. Our group has many teachers and nurses in it and this made an impact on us, especially since we see these issues in the lives of our students and patients. We appreciated the character development and that through the different points of view, we were able to put pieces of the puzzle together before Vega did, yet it didn’t take away from the mystery. This book is a must-read! We look forward to seeing if her other books have a similar writing style and theme."
Madame Woods Book Club of Wiscasset, Maine, and Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
THE WAYS WE HIDE, by Kristina McMorris (Sourcebooks, 2022)
A sweeping World War II tale of an illusionist whose recruitment by British intelligence sets her on a perilous, heartrending path.Madame Woods: “This book changed the way some of our readers perceive historical fiction. We were amazed at the authors’ ability to weave real-life events into an intricate and complex story. McMorris grabbed our attention with her latest novel, based on true facts This character-driven novel has elements of romance and suspense with a bittersweet ending. The novel begins with the main character Fenna whose life was significantly shaped by a stampede on Christmas Eve. Her perseverance from childhood helped her maintain her determination and profound instinct to get through life’s challenges along the way. Fenna, an intelligent character, is shaped by life events and uses those experiences to maneuver through challenges. This novel has elements of history and fiction interwoven in a way that makes the reader feel as though they are right alongside the characters.
We discuss the intricacies of the story and how relatable the main character was. McMorris thoughtfully and seamlessly transitions from a story of romance, into a detail-oriented spy novel, and keeps the reader o n the edge of their seat in anticipation of what direction the story and characters would go next. She challenges the reader to keep up with current and past storylines, all while inserting historical events, distracting the reader - they are well intertwined into the characters' lives and the book’s storylines. THE WAYS WE HIDE offers a variety of themes that would appeal to a large readership. So many beautiful moments, even in the last chapters of the book, that offer a sweet and real conclusion.”Book Club Girls of Sparta: "We enjoyed reading about a part of history we did not know of.Most of us were unaware of the Dutch involvement in the resistance or hadn't heard of this chapter of history where women recruited into the resistance worked on inventing escape aids that were hidden in things like games, and the hiding of clues and maps in ordinary objects was interesting to learn about. The resounding takeaway was the fact that so many people risked everything to help the resistance, to help other humans stay safe. Many questioned whether they would be as brave, especially being a woman. We found the most connecting part of the story was Fennas; bravery, and fearlessness even though she had deep trauma from the fire. We recommend THE WAYS WE HIDE to groups interested in historical fiction about new pieces of World War III history and strong female protagonists."Menu: Tea and speculoos cookies.

Brunch & Books Club, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Literary Fires Everywhere, Cortland Manor, New York
THE BODYGUARD by Katherine Center, (St. Martin's Press, 7/22)
A romantic and humorous romance about a bodyguard, and the movie star she's hired to protect, as they work to keep things professional under crazy circumstances

Brunch & Books: “We discussed the main character’s growth. Everyone enjoyed the love story, but seeing how the character grew into herself from start to finish was what really stood out. She gained confidence and self-respect that she didn’t have at the beginning and that really resonated with members. The discussion questions prompted a good conversation that brought to mind parts of the story we might not have discussed.
I Ioved this fun and funny book with every piece of my heart. It was my first Katherine Center novel and it felt as if I was sitting with a BFF listening to her tell e this hilarious and heartwarming story. 10/10! The Author’s Note alone is worth 5 stars. Don’t skip it! Recommended for those who enjoy funny, happy love stories! We’re so appreciative of the opportunity! “

Literary Fires Everywhere: "We all enjoyed this book. I am definitely not a regular rom-com reader— I usually find myself rolling my eyes at plots that make others swoon— but I really did love this book. It’s super cute, engaging, and the characters feel real. Even the setting popped right off the page! Definitely recommend grabbing this one!

Hannah has been hired to be a bodyguard to Jack, a Hollywood burnout who would prefer not to have a bodyguard. The pair have palpable chemistry, and I quickly found myself rooting for them. We are not huge romance readers and we’re all pleasantly surprised that it was both fluffy and deep, a un reads with a bit of drama. We all loved the touches and the author’s descriptions. (The Bush steak knives)."

Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado;  and Bookish Ladies,  Coto de Caza, California
HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese (St. Martin's Press, 10/4/22)
A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Get Woke: "HESTER’s message empowered us! As Laurie Lico Albanese writes, Hester Prynne is ‘a heroic woman who defies powerful men and vengeful villagers by wearing the symbol of her shame like a badge of courage.’ Heroic women! May we be them and may we raise them!”A major symbol, incorporating the books' themes, was  Isobel's sewing skill and her ability to design and stitch beautiful patterns and scenes that revealed emotions and contained hidden messages.
Each member of the book club was asked to bring a bottle of wine (or another beverage of choice), containing a label that could reflect a 'hidden' message or theme of the story. Our discussion involved each of the members presenting her wine and describing the label, revealing aspects of the novel. These included PROPHECY WINES— The label’s images relate to the supernatural world, and scenes with shooting stars. Isobel struggles to accept her power, and the woman on the label exhibits power.*TEMPTATION AND EVE—Depicts Eve tempting Adam. Isobel’s community shuns her as a witch when she becomes pregnant. EVE elicited discussion on the Bible story – Isobel notes its message about untrustworthy women. GNARLY HEAD WINES—summarizes many characters' mental states: Hawthorne struggles with his family history of witch trials. Isobel struggles with her artistic creations and powers. *KALEIDOSCOPE:— Isabel’s gift enables her to create beautiful designs and messages on clothing and understand others’ emotions. WITCHING HOUR: summarized the novel’s mystery, fantasy, excitement, and passion.
Menu: A ‘community rice bowl’ is symbolic of the support and encouragement women shared in the novel. Member brought ingredients. Along with the theme of wine, dessert bars were labeled ‘Primitive Nuts’: many characters reflect this title!
We  also shared a representation of each member’s name created by a woman with synesthesia.”
Ranch Readers: "We were intrigued by the premise of imagining the woman who inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's protagonist, Hester Prynne, in his iconic novel, THE SCARLET LETTER, In Hester, they meet -- Nathan is a young struggling writer, who is haunted by his ancestor's treatment of the witches of Salem. and Isobel is a young wife, who recently immigrated from Scotland, and has been deserted by an opium-addicted husband who left her destitute. Isobel supports herself by creating exquisite embroidery and also through the kindness of others in town. She has synesthesia-a sensory phenomenon in which she sees letters and sounds expressed in colors. Isobel learns at an early she to hide this ability so that she would not be called a witch, but she uses her extraordinary skill to create beautiful work. We agreed that the book's language was very descriptive and enthralling and we had a long discussion about our own creative processes that have enriched our life.

We thought character of 'Hathorne' -- what the author calls Hawthorne-- could have been developed a bit further as he seemed shallow and his treatment of Isobel seemed dismissive. The social issues of the time were well highlighted by the author with a concurrent story of the Witch Trials in Salem, the plight of fleeing saves using the Underground Railroad, the mistreatment and victimization of women who had no rights, the struggles of prejudice that immigrants face in America We enjoyed the novel and feel it is going to become a best seller - it was definitely a compelling read!

Menu: Bee-shaped tea cakes and chocolate and lemon lavender scones to enjoy with tea and coffee.

Bookish Ladies: "Everyone enjoyed the book and a fresh reboot of The Scarlet Letter. The author did a wonderful retelling and we loved the characters and the story. We had a great discussion and we’re so happy to have this fun experience. We highly recommend HESTER! One member loved the book so much that she took a trip to Salem - ok it was a brilliant coincidence that she was going there!"

Menu: "Many colorful vegetables mentioned in the book."

Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas and Cork and Olive Book Club, Valrico, Florida
HALF-BLOWN ROSE by Leesa-Cross Smith (Grand Central, 2022)
A novel about a woman remaking her life after her husband’s betrayal leads to a year of travel, art, and passion in Paris.

Famished for Fiction: “We had a great time discussing HALF-BLOWN ROSE! This book really stretched us!" We discussed infidelity quite a bit: some members felt that the current problem —the marriage— needed to be resolved before embarking on another adventure—a relationship with Loup. We discussed that Vincent and Loup being independently wealthy contributed to their ability to just 'do as they pleased'. Vincent runs off to Paris; she and Loup travel by train to visit Theo, and family. Her family’s laid-back attitude when she shows up with Loup is a bit shocking; but, put into the context of their family, it made sense. SPOILER ALERT: We felt the ending left questions unanswered...maybe a sequel is in the plans? We would love to know if Vincent will return to Cillian, stay with Loup or go out on her own. We felt she was d searching for her freedom by leaving Kentucky and fleeing to Paris; but, in the end, becomes more tied down with the pregnancy. We recommend this book to those who enjoy Paris, romance, art, and secrets."Menu: We loved that the novel was set in Paris so we met at a French restaurant, Toulouse Cafe & Bar for quiche, Toulouse salad, lobster rolls, lobster risotto, and rose-themed drinks: French 77 and Rose all-day punch."

Cork and Olive: We looked forward to HALF-BLOWN ROSE, as we enjoyed Leesa’s novel THIS CLOSE TO OKAY and this did not disappoint! We enjoy her writing style—a phenomenal writer!” There was much discussion about whether Vincent should have led her husband on, whether it was wrong for her to be with Loup before a decision about her marriage, and whether she should have reached out to Tully and his mother. No one liked Cillian's actions and would have preferred Vincent to end her marriage if she was going to go be with someone else. We discussed Vincent's relationship with her children and the growing relationship with Tully, who we loved. There was concern that Vincent spent more time on Tully with her children, although we know that she loved them - she just didn't share as much of herself with them. We all want an epilogue!! We agreed that we needed to know what Vincent decided. Some hoped she kicked both Cillian and Loop to the curb, stayed in Paris, and raised the baby herself. Some thought she might have both... We loved that she decided to just do whatever she felt— eat pastries, sleep during the day, do whatever her spirit felt, while she proces

sed this punch in the gut to her life.
We enjoyed the references to food, art, books, and music. It was SO brilliant that Leesa created Vincent's Spotify playlists. We were delighted to see videos and references to characters on @anchoismusic. What a great way to bring the book to life! C'est bon bon bon! We recommend this novel to those who enjoy travel, art, and passion.”

Menu: "Our menu featured foods referenced —wonderfully varied and not all French! Cranberry Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes, Chickpea Stew, Fig Jam and Cheese with crackers, Rosemary Flatbread with Hummus and Olives, Pain au Chocolat, Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, and of course, Champagne!

Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Literary Lovelies of Yonkers, New York Junior League of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, Finer Things Book Club of Brentwood, California
THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman (Kensington, 8/22)
The story about the Willowbrook State School, the Staten Island mental institution that shocked a nation when exposed in the 1970s as a dumping ground for unwanted children.

Sensational Seven: "We are fortunate to read this new novel from a favorite author! Once again, Ms. Wiseman has so eloquently written about another of our nation’s past social injustices. We compared our strong responses to the novel with other books with difficult topics. She has shed light on a piece of our history that is so important to learn about. Her take on Willowbrook through the eyes of sixteen-year-old, Sage Winters, was a riveting ‘page-turner.’ When Sage discovers her twin sister, Rosemary, was alive and had been institutionalized for years at Willowbrook; she courageously heads to the school to rescue her. We discussed our emotional responses in realizing that these atrocities occurred in our lifetime and in our country Our discussion centered on how the children’s parents felt after learning the truth of events at the ‘school.’ We were sad and horrified over Willowbrook, and had for the staff and media who were crucial to its closure. We felt grateful for the advancement in care and treatment of the mentally ill and incapacitated members of our society today.”

Menu: "Our take on related food/drink: White chicken chili, representing the colorless mush that residents at Willowbrook were served daily. We also drank Tequila Sunrises, a popular cocktail in 1972, using orange juice. In the novel, the nurses mixed medication in orange juice to keep the residents sedated. No meds were used by our book club- only tequila and grenadine in the OJ!”

Junior League of Kalamazoo: “We enjoy historical fiction and mystery and this was the best of both worlds!”Some members recently toured a State Hospital in Michigan and were able to compare what they learned with Willowbrook. Ellen Marie Wiseman joined us via Zoom to answer questions about how she researched the book and where the ideas came from— including the big twist. It was especially fun because she had been at the memorial at Willowbrook the day before and was able to tell us about meeting some of the doctors and attendants who helped to blow the whistle, per se. We discussed society during this time, and why it was often recommended for parents to place children in a place like Willowbrook. We discussed how parents could see their child in that state, not say anything- many of us agreed that during that time, people deferred to 'authority’ and took the doctors at their word. Today, parents question and challenge authority, especially when it comes to doctors and teachers. We agreed this was one of the saddest stories we had heard and had time wrapping our heads around the fact that while it’s a fictional story the setting, conditions, and many of the characters were real. We also didn’t see the twist coming (Ellen said that even her editor didn’t see that one!).”

Menu: "Pancakes and bacon, a build-your-own-oatmeal bar, and orange juice —spiked with champagne instead of sedatives, as in the book."

Literary Lovelies: "This was truly a fascinating book that led to a great discussion about mental health. We couldn't believe it was based on a true story! We all loved this fascinating story, and it was heartbreaking to know it was based on a real situation. The subject matter was difficult but we all enjoyed the historical fiction and somewhat true crime genre in this well-written and detailed novel. Wiseman graphically describes the school, where employees brutalize and demean their residents. It’s after a reporter sneaks into the facility— the journalist is Geraldo Rivera, who was instrumental in getting the facility rehabbed and shut down —that light is shed on these inhumane conditions. We discussed the women brought to this facility, mental health, and the management of those needing special care. It was terrible that couldn’t speak up for themselves, and that no one ever checked on them This dark and gritty story will stay with us for a long time—it was so interesting and led to a fabulous discussion. This is my first time reading this author and I will be looking for more of her books."⁣

Elizabeth's Book Chat, Frisco, Texas; Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey; North Wales Area Public Library; Pennsylvania
WHEN WE LET GO  by Rochelle Weinstein

A novel about mothers and daughters, loss and acceptance, the lessons that come from heartbreak, and the healing it takes to embrace the joy of a second chance.Elizabeth’s Book Chat: "A wonderful match We had a very lively discussion with author Rochelle Weinstein and the book was so well received. Everyone loved it! There were different elements of the story that each of us could relate to which made it even more interesting. The author's style of writing is genuine and heartfelt. As we read the words on the page, we also were able to actually feel the emotions. What was very interesting was when members asked Rochelle where the idea for the tree came from. The response kept everyone chatting for a while. Great interaction!”
Menu: Charcuterie board, lemon cake, and wine

Book Club Girls Sparta: “A new author to us, and this moving story was enjoyed by all. Many could relate to the protagonist's profound level of loss and trauma and how one moment in her young life altered her future relationships with those closest to her. Trauma, grief, mother-daughter, sister, family, forgiveness, strength, and courage were all key factors that resonated with our readers. We discussed the importance of self-care and women surrounding themselves with people they can trust and open up to, and give themselves permission to move on and heal. We enjoyed the mother/ daughter theme. Read this moving novel if you are looking for a story of mothers, daughters, first love, second chances, and the powerful bond of sisters. “

 

Menu: "Wine and chocolate for self-care, a summer picnic with farm-to-table foods, lemonade, tea, and homemade fruit pies, based on Avery's garden and farm."
North Wales Area Library Book Club: “A big THANK YOU! This book was excellent! The believable characters drew readers in, and the settings were easy to picture. Several interesting relationships and ways of dealing with loss were explored. It was a well-built novel with interesting situations about dealing with grief, family relationships, and trust."

Over-Readers Anonymous of Cumming, Georgia, Reckless Readers of Eastford, Connecticut, Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, Wine Club with a Book Problem, Woodstock, Georgia
OVERKILL by Sandra Brown (Grand Central, 8/22)
A crime thriller in which a conflict of conscience between a former football star and an ambitious state prosecutor swiftly intensifies into a fight for their lives.

Reckless Readers: "OVERKILL satisfied the thriller need, romance desire, and contemplative fiction we all love. It was an excellent book club book that sparked much conversation: the question of whether or not we would want to stay alive, or if we could actually pull the plug ourselves on a loved one, after being in a coma with no brain activity. The characters had moral and religious struggles with this choice, and we empathized with them. We loved the spicy romance in the book —with much discussion about how much more of it everyone wanted—as well as the direction of the story. Eban’s character sent us on another heated conversation about entitlement and the evils that wealth can add to an already evil person’s being. Sandra Brown did an excellent job of making us hate him, and kept us page-turning hoping for a better outcome. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy a little romance in their thriller, and heavy discussion points."

Menu: "Our drink—the Blue Overkill (vodka blue Curacao, and pineapple juice) was tasty, like Zach, and packed a punch like Kate. Paired with charcuterie."

Over-Readers Anonymous: “We recommend OVERKILL for those who enjoy crime fiction, suspense thrillers, and contemporary issues with a little romance thrown in! Our book club has enjoyed several Sandra Brown novels, they're entertaining and also touch on issues that lead to a deeper discussion. We discussed the ethical dilemma at the foundation of OVERKILL and delved into medical ethics, end-of-life planning, the characters, the plot, the judicial system, and the celebrity spotlight. As we all have roots in the south, we liked the Atlanta, New Orleans, and North Carolina settings. OVERKILL was action-packed and easy-to-read."

Menu: “As a BBQ menu was suggested by the author, met at a local restaurant for pulled pork!." (see Sandra Brown's recipe)

Book Club Girls: "An enjoyable read with developed characters an incredible, setting, and suspense well paced throughout the book.  We discussed what we would do if faced with the same situation as Zach even though none of our members have had to face this situation. What many of us thought should have been a clear-cut choice, as we wove through the narrative we came to understand that there were so many layers to this that came into play that it wasn't as simple as we believed in the beginning. The most hated character was the villain Eban and although he is fictional, we agreed there are real people in the world like him. When you are so wealthy that you can make so many disastrous choices as a human with no consequences was highlighted. What would have happened to someone else who wasn't as wealthy? Also, we all agreed that no one really thought about Rebecca, until they were forced to, which led us to agree it was unacceptable for her to continue to be victimized in a way for so very long. But, if she was allowed to let go in the beginning, there wouldn't be as much of a plot line for the book. Loved the premise of the story, it gave lots of topics for discussion.

Menu: "We recommend bbq, pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, and any tailgating type of foods that would be a nod to North Carolina and football."

Wine Club with a Book Problem: "OVERKILL is a good thought-provoking story. The topic of life support and having your affairs in order gave us a good discussion, and we enjoyed the setting of Atlanta since we live in the area. Former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Zach Bridger has MPA for his ex-wife, Rebecca, who has been placed on life support after a violent assault. Zach has kept Rebecca on life support for 4 years to honor her parent's wishes. The attacker, Eban, gets an early release from prison and Kate Lennon, a brilliant state prosecutor, is determined to put him back behind bars. If Rebecca were to die, Eban could be retried on a new charge: murder. Zach is asked to make an impossible choice: keep her on life support or take her off and put Eban back in prison. We discussed that no one really thought about Rebecca. Zach was concerned about how he would be portrayed by the media, her father keeping her alive to punish Zach, and Eban boasting how his father's money got him out of prison early and now he can bet back to partying. It was unacceptable to keep Rebecca on life-support for so long.

Menu: "There are many football analogies and football references throughout the book. We put together a Tailgate Football Menu: Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Balsamic Fig Infused Burger Bites, Wings, Homemade Salsa & Chips plus Guacamole, Buffalo Chicken Dip, Pizza Pepper Poppers."

Reading Between the Wines, Albany, New York; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; Get Woke Book Club, New Prague, Minnesota; CT Lit, Bridgeport, Connecticut; Kings Chapel Book Club  Arrington, Tennessee,
ALL MY RAGE by Sabaa Tahir (Penguin Teen, 3/22)

A contemporary novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents.

Reading Between the Wines: "We all enjoyed the book and thought the author did a wonderful job of creating flawed and 'real' characters that we grew to care about."This was a great match for our club. Our discussion included immigrants' struggles to preserve their culture while trying to achieve the American Dream, the nature of generational trauma, the opioid crisis, and the role of faith in people's lives- so many things to discuss! We became invested in the characters of Noor and Sal and the traumatic events that they and their families, experienced impacted us, and provided a lot of jumping-off points for discussion. Watching their growth throughout the novel gave it a hopeful ending. We loved this book and were fully invested in these characters, and reading it was a very emotional journey. Recommended to clubs that enjoy books discussing contemporary themes, strong characters, and emotional reads.

Menu: We met at a local Indian/Pakistani restaurant to enjoy food discussed and eaten in the novel: chai tea, poori, halwa, Chicken Kashmiri, and paratha, among other dishes!

Page Ladies: “We went in expecting a contemporary story about friendship and forgiveness but what we got was so much more. Thank you, Sabaa Tahir, for sharing this devastating but absolutely beautiful story with us! This is a powerful story that affected each of us differently. It's one that will stay with us for a long time. Until The Fight Salahudin and Noor were more than friends; they were family. Now, Sal is struggling with keeping his family's motel afloat as his mother's health fails and his father loses himself to alcoholism. Meanwhile, Noor is working at her uncle's liquor store and hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him and Juniper forever. Sal and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst. This is an emotional and moving story about friendship, forgiveness, and heartache; it’s like taking a deep dive into a pool full of emotions. Grief, betrayal and forgiveness, loss, rage— you will feel every single one and more in this book. No one from our book club was able to finish this book with dry eyes. There are so many topics that were brought up and all were not easy to discuss: death, drugs, prejudice, and physical abuse. The writing is absolutely wonderful—Sabaa Tahir is a fabulous storyteller. She has a way with words that touches each of her readers.“

Get Woke Book Club “Members arrived with books displaying colorful post-it tabs, which visually reflected the common greeting, 'there is so much to think about in this novel!A group of mothers and grandmothers very much enjoyed the novel by a young adult author and its detailed and realistic picture of the struggles that immigrants face in relocating to the United States and of the family traditions and secrets that follow the immigrants to their new home. The culture and religious traditions of Pakistan were vividly described in an engaging storyline and beautiful prose. The main plot follows the lives of two Pakistani teens, who are struggling with school, personal tragedies, and love. They are surrounded by other well-drawn characters who add depth to the story. We discussed the many plot lines and themes: diversity, forgiveness, hope, family relationships, communication, secrecy, and loss. Tahir fills the novel with music, probably an excellent technique for adolescent readers—they can easily relate to the messages and emotions through familiar songs.  Noor uses songs and their lyrics to help cope with the conflicts in her life. 

Members shared selfies with short reflections:  “Music plays a role in helping us deal with life’s adversities.*  When is a relationship worth salvaging?  *Fortunately forgiveness does not have an expiration date. It waits and always hopes to be the last word. *Peeling through the complicated layers of life we can see, appreciate and begin to understand one another. * One of my favorite quotes ‘Great passions grow into monsters in the dark of the mind; but if you share them with loving friends they remain human, they can be endured.’ * Tahir effectively introduces sections with lines from  Elizabeth Bishop's poem, “One Art.  Many characters ‘lost’ things: family, money, businesses, dignity. A lesson we all may need is that losing isn’t always bad.: 'the art of losing’s not too hard to master’ *While keeping a secret is meant to protect someone at some point, keeping that secret might be doing more harm.”

CT Lit Book Club: "We’ve been exploring new genres, and we enjoyed ALL MY RAGE, a heartbreaking story that touches on a lot of sensitive topics which gave us plenty to discuss.ALL MY RAGE introduced us to Pakistani culture. This young adult story follows two Pakistani teens growing up in a small town in California and the grim realities of their American dream. Even through difficult times their cultural norms held them together as a family, even if not by blood, the young adult characters are each facing their own struggles—the death of a loved one, racism, alcoholism, drugs, abuse— they are navigating grief, failure, and forgiveness, and must ultimately lean on one another to make sense of the chaos they are facing. It was shocking to imagine our younger selves in situations like these and we spent time reflecting on how the kids navigated various situations. One that stood out is how Salahudin and Noor dealt with the drug bust, and how their relationship persevered. We also discussed how Salahudin came to terms with his abuse. We recommend ALL MY RAGE for clubs learning about other cultures, family drama, and historical fiction."

Kings Chapel: “Thank you for the chance to read this insightful novel. We had a fabulous discussion and I think it was good to read outside our usual genres. This is a heart-wrenching story about two teens from Pakistani families living in Juniper, California, dealing with tough circumstances, basically all by themselves. We don’t read much YA, It was out of the comfort zone for most of the ladies. but the tough topics represented in this story, such as grief, alcoholism, physical abuse, and racism, were easier to handle in the Young Adult format. Understanding why the characters made the choices they did was something we discussed quite a bit. As teens, they made decisions that were wrong but for the right reasons and it was interesting to get in the minds of these teens and try to understand why. As parents, it was hard to read at times, feeling so sad for these kids who have had such a hard life. But seeing them grow and learn from mistakes and stand up for others, gave the book a nice redemption quality in the end. Recommended for groups that enjoy YA coming of age and social justice." 



Reckless Readers, East Lyme, Connecticut, Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma;
Lit Ladies Read, Melbourne, Florida; Thrillers by The Book / Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
Thrillers by The Book / Costa Mesa, California, CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut recommend:
THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK by Jennifer Hillier (Minotaur 7/22)
Paris Peralta is suspected of killing her celebrity husband, and her long-hidden past now threatens to destroy her future.

Reckless Readers: An excellent match! Everyone was excited to talk about the twists. We had much to discuss with THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK. Members were messaging before we met, needing to talk about the book as they were finishing it. It was like a month-long meeting, behind the scenes! Usually, if continuous discussion is prompted, the book was a hit. To say the book was twisty is an understatement. This book was twisty than a country back road! A few of us seasoned readers predicted the big twists, but most of us were surprised and shocked. Together, we all needed to unload about the horrendous mothering and terrible situations that Joey was put in throughout her childhood. All of the women in our group are mothers, which makes the book hit us so much harder. But the book wasn’t just about sexual abuse and trauma. There is a high-profile murder that could potentially unearth secrets that need to be kept hidden. The conversation got animated when we discussed Joelle's charge with murder, and there was much discussion about the relationship between Ruby and Joey. As mothers, we found it hard to imagine how Ruby could treat Joey the way she did and put her in such horrible situations. It was heartbreaking and disturbing ."

Chilly Thrillies: “Thank you for giving our group the gift of a 5-star read, a perfect match! We were engaged from start to finish and loved how much there was to discuss. It had the thrills of a book with great character development and storyline. We discussed narcissism and how it affects relationships, specifically parent-child, how the way you are raised affects your instincts and perspective of others, fight or flight and how we would react in certain scenarios in the book, sexual abuse, and its long-term effects, age gap relationships and how people can be evil, but the 'lesser evil.’ We debated which storyline in the dual timeline was more action-packed—something hard to accomplish. Normally, we’re more interested in one storyline, We each were able to predict one of the twists, but we're stumped on the others and loved that there was more than one twist revealed. I was so impressed, I read Hillier’s JAR OF HEARTS. Recommended for those who enjoy a page-turning thriller with complex characters that you root for."

Menu: We made a Filipino Chicken Adobo recipe similar to what Paris makes towards the end of the book (she used pork instead of chicken). We were inspired by her description of how learning to cook was so special when she was going through such a dark time.

Lit Ladies Read: “We enjoyed this twisty, thriller/mystery. and had a very lively discussion! We had so much to discuss. We enjoyed the storytelling, shifting between past and present. and different points of view. This really helped to fully develop the characters. Although some predicted twists, we were still engrossed in the story and wanted to see how things played out.
“Our discussion centered around the characters and their relationships. One of our favorites was that between Jimmy and Paris and the highlight of our discussion was the relationship between Paris/Joey and Ruby. We disagreed about how adult Paris should have handled Ruby and decided that we had to agree to disagree about our feelings towards Paris, but we all agreed that this book was a hit for our group. The mystery is multi-layered, with deep characters. Many members put other books by this author on their ‘to be read’ list."

Thrillers by the Book Club, DFW: "This was our best GalleyMatch, perfect for our group and for book clubs that like dark and twisted mysteries“We all loved how the book started with a very intriguing and captivating scene Joey’s background was very interesting and her relationship with her mother was so toxic. There are a few mysteries in the story. Besides trying to find out if Paris murdered her husband, we’re also trying to work out Paris’ past, how did she go from living with an abusive unstable mother, who is now in prison, to living a wealthy life married to a famous celebrity? I enjoyed Paris’ past the most I loved the intensity in the chapters that focused on Paris’ childhood and upbringing. Ruby, her mother, was such an intriguing and complex character—a terrible mother, self-centered and irresponsible, which caused Paris a lot of pain and uncertainty. While a few members predicted the twist, it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of this dark and suspenseful story.”

Thrillers by The Book, Costa Mesa: “This was an excellent pick for our club! The majority liked or loved this one! Some said it was one of their favorite picks of the year. Many of the members enjoyed the mystery of learning about the murderer in the end, and the alternating timelines of the female main character. There were a variety of opinions about who committed the crime.”

CT Lit Book Club: "This was the perfect match for us! We have been craving a thriller and this was on all of our anticipated release lists. We all enjoyed the book, and were so excited to have a chance to preview it! We discussed how jam-packed this book was with plot points. There was much to hold your attention and give you room to try and predict what would happen. We loved how creative Hillier is— there is one scene in specific that was so creative and will leave us remembering the book forever! (hint hint, ice skates). Half of us had read another book by Hillier, and we all agreed that we want to read more Hiller titles."


The Ladies of Autumnwood, Grand Isle, New York, Mom and I Book Club of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, r
ecommend:

THE MATCHMAKER'S GIFT BY Lynda Cohen Loigman (St. Martin's Press, 9/20/22)
 An intergenerational story about two women—a grandmother and granddaughter—who share the same incredible gift: the ability to identify soulmates

The Ladies of Autumnwood: We loved THE MATCHMAKER’S GIFT! Reading about Raskin’s pickles and the knish shops brought back wonderful memories of shopping at a pickle store in lower Manhattan barrels with barrels on the sidewalk and enjoying a great knish. These memories, among other topics, helped to round out our animated discussion last night. Members didn’t know much about ‘yentas’ or matchmakers and their role in creating Jewish courtship relations. We enjoyed learning about the bravery of the young girl, who beyond the fact that she was Jewish opened our eyes to the challenges of women, not unlike what some have to endure to break that glass ceiling today."
Menu: “We enjoyed Challah and red wine, and took home jars of pickles that I designed with a Raskin’s label.”

My Mom and I: “This pick was perfection. Not only did it match our love of magical realism but we agreed it’s the best book we’ve read this year. You found the perfect book for us!”
“We discussed magic, love, strong women, lovable characters, and the absolute beauty of the writing. We recommend this book to those who enjoy magical realism, foodie fiction, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. The author wrote a book that we treasure and we’re raving about it to everyone. This is a book that you feel like hugging at the end. We absolutely loved it. It’s a gem! “

Menu: "A smorgasbord! We had a blast capturing foods mentioned in the book lox and capers, cornichons— we decorated pickle jars with ‘The Pickle King’, as in the book. We had magical color-changing butterfly tea, as we wanted some magic to go with the story, and chocolate babka for dessert, like our beloved characters baked.

St. Louis Book Club, St. Louis, Missouri;  Mom and I Book Club, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania;  Pittsford Moms Book Club, Pittsford, New York, and Port Wine and Book Society Readers, Port Washington, Wisconsin recommend:
OTHER BIRDS by Sarah Addison Allen (St Martins, Press, 8/30/22)
A novel about a young woman who claims her deceased mother's apartment in an island town, where she meets she meets quirky and secretive neighbors.

St. Louis Women’s Book Club: "A great match! We felt like this was the perfect mix of themes, giving us questions and a variety of topics to discuss. Having an arc made us feel like ‘VIPs’ to the publishing process. This novel was cozy, nostalgic, and heartfelt! Allen’s characters help redefine the word ‘family’ in the most beautiful way. We discussed the definition of home and chosen family, food as a love language —and inspiration for potlucks for book club!! The setting—so realistic and magical, the imagery of the birds and the meaning. OTHER BIRDS takes you on a magical journey of youth, delicately balancing both beauty and sadness. We recommend this book to clubs who are fans of magical realism. It was fuzzy, cozy --the perfect happy read."

Menu: "We made amazing foods to match the book: cornmeal air-fried tomatoes, potato chips on Hawaiian rolls, Mac & cheese, cornbread, Palomas, and marshmallow popcorn."

My Mom and I: "Thank you for a rare opportunity to preview our favorite author’s new book! Sarah Addison Allen's first novel GARDEN SPELLS introduced us to our favorite genre, magical realism. I saved the book for the perfect moment and then tore into it. After waiting eight years for her new book I knew I’d read it too quickly and, that’s what happened We are Italian and loved the ‘found family’ theme and 'food is love' philosophy running through the novel. We enjoyed the foodie talk, animals, ghosts, and magical elements. All characters and storylines were interesting and mysterious; sometimes beautiful, but sometimes ugly but always interesting. Several big reveals had us slack-jawed!

While OTHER BIRDS is a little sadder and darker than her previous works, the magic and the love and the beauty left the reader with a love of the characters and a belief that as the characters live beyond 'the end' of the book all turned out well for them. And you will want that because you will be left loving nearly everything about OTHER BIRDS! We recommend this to those who like magical realism and foodie fiction."

Menu: "Cornmeal marshmallow dishes based on a character: Fluffernutters (marshmallow whip and peanut butter sandwiches), tamale pie stuffed peppers, cornmeal sugar cookies, and marshmallow-flavored lip balm as a keepsake."

Pittsford Moms: "We had so much fun with OTHER BIRDS! We loved this found family story and all the special characters! The novel was a good fit for our club. We try to switch up genres/authors and most members like books with some magic realism elements. We felt it was an easy read and generally flew through the book - Thanks! kept our attention. We loved the story of found family, the characters, and their backgrounds. Books with paranormal/magic realism can be hit or miss for most members but they worked well with this story and added background and historical context for many of the characters. We had a great discussion about the twists and the characters' diverse backgrounds— we would have liked a little more depth to some characters that had very traumatic backgrounds. We recommend OTHER BIRDS to groups that enjoy a touch of magic realism and found family stories!”

Menu: "S’mores bars— the story takes place on Marsh Island and all restaurants in town have something marshmallow on their menu.” 

Port Wine and Book Society: "A great match for our club! We recommend this enchanting story written from the heart, with interesting characters and subplots.”Zoey was such a delightful, open and honest young character— we all adored her. We liked how the story unfolded by hearing different characters' viewpoints in each chapter. The Dellawisps added fun and interest, some of us thought they may have stolen Charlotte's money.  We loved the descriptions of Mallow Island - we live in a small tourist town in Wisconsin and really identified with that. The highlighted passages in Lizbeth’s copy of Sweet Mallow were ironic because she didn't live her life according to any of them - she was so stuck in the past it literally killed her. We enjoyed a unique story, quirky characters, and the theme of food as friendship/love."

Menu: “The detail around food was great! We  made several dishes with corn or cornmeal to celebrate it: Polenta and shrimp, fresh corn salad, corn dip and corn chips, and popcorn.”

CT Lit Club, Milford, Connecticut; Page Ladies, Cleveland, Ohio; KU Endowment, Lawrence, Kansas; and Girls Clubhouse, Auburn, California recommend
MIRROR GIRLS by Kelly McWilliams (Little Brown, 2/22)
A gothic horror novel about twin sisters separated across the color line after the murder of their parents (YA historical fiction/  magical realism/fantasy).

CT Lit: “MIRROR GIRLS was a great discussion starter and the perfect book to read with a group. It took us out of our comfort zone and was eye-opening, a reminder that segregation is not so far in the past. We are transported to the South—and blatant racism —which as a group of white women living in Connecticut, we don't have experience with. We follow twin sisters Magnolia and Charlie, separated at birth—one raised as Black in New York City and one raised as white-passing in the Deep South— who learn the secret everyone has kept from them. The novel portrayed how indoctrinated people were, and in some cases ready to push racism aside when it would benefit them. We discussed how Charlie's view on life differs after growing up in the more liberal Harlem and compared it to growing up in Connecticut and traveling in different areas in the United States. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy Brit Bennett's THE VANISHING HALF.”

Page Ladies: "We all enjoyed this historical fiction with a paranormal twist that is both heartbreaking and beautiful. The book offered many different topics, generating a nice discussion: the time period, the girls as individuals, their different upbringings and when they came together, the decision to separate them and not tell them about each other, and much more! A wonderful story about twin girls Charlie and Magnolia who were separated after their parents died for love across the color line and have no idea the other exists. Magnolia. raised in Georgia, is the white heiress to a cotton plantation. Charlie, raised in Harlem with her Nana, is a young Black organizer. When Charlie's grandmother falls ill, they return to Georgia. When the girls do meet Magnolia discovers her reflection has disappeared. They couldn’t be more different, but they will need each other to put the hauntings of the past to rest, break the mirrors’ deadly curse, and discover the meaning of sisterhood in a racially divided land. Seeing the girls come together to create that sisterly bond was wonderful, as is the writing, and pacing. The curse and the ghosts added an interesting twist to the story.”

Girls Clubhouse: "We all enjoyed MIRROR GIRLS and we tried to capture the supernatural aspect of the book with mirror images” Charlie and Magnolia both born in the South but separated at birth live separate lives but face the double threat of racism and ghosts. We discussed how ‘Colored Town ‘is equally foreign to both girls, despite being born there; contrasting with where they were each raised. Magnolia knows the rules of the general area, while Charlie knows how things are done —how stories are told, some traditions. The concept of the veil as the place between this world and the afterlife was used by the author also as the place between the white world and the colored world, which made this gothic story much more intriguing than if it had been singularly used. This forces both girls to examine who they are and what they are willing to live with. Members enjoy supernatural books, and the idea of ghosts to help guide the characters was appealing. We found it to be a ‘light’ supernatural read. We recommend to clubs who enjoy gothic young adult novels."

KU Endowment: "Everyone loved the book. Some members were pleasantly surprised by the way supernatural elements were combined with social commentary and realistic events. The author was able to shine a light on the atrocities of slavery and segregation without being heavy-handed and shows us a playbook for fighting back through the strong and determined sisters, Charlie and Magnolia. The past can haunt us but that doesn't mean it has to control us, and love will conquer hate. One member discussed the book with her 86-year-old mother, who shared memories of her experiences during segregation. We all felt hopeful and inspired by the book and loved the characters. We talked about what it would be like not to know your origins and what would inspire someone to fight against things they know are wrong when it could cost them everything. We recommend to those that enjoy strong characters, historical fiction, and being inspired."

The Revivals Book Club The Revivals, Germantown, Wisconsin; Famished for Fiction, Plano, Texas; Zoom-Chilly Thrillies, Tulsa, Oklahoma
THE CICADA TREE by Robert Gwaltney, Jr.
A novel about an 11-year-old, whisky-drinking, piano prodigy who encounters a wealthy family of supernatural beauty.

The Revivals: “Have we missed out on a genre of remarkable books or were we gifted a gem in a genre we might not have read? The debut novel THE CICADA TREE soared to the top of the 2022 best reads. We dare you not to highlight dozens of richly written sentences; our galleys are filled with colorful post-it notes. The discussion questions gave deeper insight into the themes and allegories we hadn’t considered. We agreed that the book fit into genres of southern gothic, magical realism, and coming-of-age. We explored biblical allegories: good and evil, Jesus, John the Baptist, Cain and Abel, plague, water, and fire. Once every 13 years, the cicadas emerge in tremendous numbers to mate and disrupt human life and comfort; some believe they hold our secrets. Gwaltney has a gift for bringing all together in an unforgettable book appealing to multiple genres and readers. We discussed how music and the song of the Cicadas featured prominently, and the writing allowed us to hear the music as the book’s climax approached. There are themes of coming-of-age, transformation, and rebirth. Gwaltney poetically foreshadows the storyline early as the story’s protagonist, a typical tween experiencing growing pains, insecurity, and self-recrimination sheds her childhood as a cicada does. Triumphing over evil, the novel reaches an angelic and lyrical end. There are as many ways to love this book as there are to interpret it–we dare you to read it! We all loved this novel.”

Menu: Iced Tea, Autumn Apple & Feta Salad, Watermelon Salad, Feta, Mint; Skillet Cheddar Cornbread, Southern Pecan Praline Cookies, Coffee on a garden patio.

Zoom-Chilly Thrillies: We had a great time reading and discussing THE CICADA TREE, a wonderful match that pushed us out of our comfort zone, with its unique blend of genres— historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. This was a unique story! We agreed it was unpredictable and gave much to discuss. Some words members shared to describe the writing style and story were: Gothic, descriptive, imaginative, twisted, mystical, humorous, innocent, and unpredictable! We were excited about the discussion and most finished it quickly-after the halfway point, unable to put it down.

"We discussed symbolism, class differences, racism, religion, southern culture, character motivations, and family relationships. and how the main character was looking up to a family she aspired to. We discussed our childhood oddities, raised by the mention of the character's liking the feel of pain. We enjoyed that it was told through a child's lens, while dark but the child's perspective ensured curiosity and humor even when horrifying things are happeningThe writing is creative and descriptive and made us think about things such as how you hear music in a new light. The ending was haunting and beautiful and there were many shocked reactions!

"We also discussed the movies or books we thought possibly influenced the author, including REBECCA, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and MEAN GIRLS., We are eager to read Gwaltney's next novel!"

Menu: “Iced tea was sipped!"

Famished for Fiction: “A wonderful opportunity to read a complex story with a bit of mystery and unexpected twists and turns. Our group is diverse, and open to new and different genres, and appreciated the opportunity to discover this book. We discussed the focus of music and its impact on the progression of the story. Music is a major theme throughout the piece, whether it is the music Mr. Mayfield had composed for his wife or the musical virtuosity of the Mayfield children. We explored the cicada's presence: cicadas are seasonal and burrow in the ground, so they are equivalent to all of the secrets that are buzzing around the town of Providence, connecting the Mayfields to Etta Mae and Analeise, and the link between their molting and the growing pains the main characters are experiencing.”

Ranch Readers, Littleton, Colorado; Books and Brew, Allendale, Michigan;  Carrollton Book Buddies, Carrollton, Texas;
BluStocking Literacy Society, West Allis, Wisconsin

THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET by Sara Ackerman (Mira, 8/22)
A brilliant female code breaker and a pilot on a top-secret mission come together in this dazzling story of love and intrigue set during America’s darkest hour.

Ranch Readers: Our book club enjoyed this book as we read a non-fiction WWII book about codebreakers and many have traveled to Hawaii so both the theme and setting are familiar. The storyline was realistic and we enjoyed the dual timelines with relevance at the end of the book when the characters are planting a memorial garden on the plantation. We discussed our mother's vital roles during the war, such as working in a war plant, how women were disregarded and treated as second-class citizens, and the situations where the same treatment happens today.We discussed our Hawaiian travels: topography, lava fields, ocean conditions, and coffee plantations. Those that have visited the Mauna Kea Hotel described it. Recommended for book clubs that enjoy historical fiction and WWII stories.”

Menu: “Banana chocolate chip cake/ banana pudding topping, tropical fruit salad, Huli-huli Chicken.”

BluStocking Literacy Society: “
A perfect match! We enjoy historical fiction/mystery that pulls us in and we all anticipated the discussion. We discussed the timeline and connections between the two eras, and the uncertainty that women codebreakers felt reflected by Lu as she struggles to establish herself as a journalist. Isabel walked a line between expressing her intelligence and thoughts and second-guessing herself and stepping back. It was fascinating to consider women in a secret intelligence role and the obstacles they had to overcome.”
Menu: "
Wacky Cake, a classic chocolate cake born of necessity for WWII rationing.”

Carrollton Book Buddies: “A brilliant female codebreaker. An ‘unbreakable’ Japanese naval code. A pilot on a top-secret mission that could change the course of WWII. My book club loved THE CODEBREAKER'S SECRET! The dual timeline novel is set in Hawaii. We enjoyed discussing the amazing roles women played in World War ll. While most of us decided we'd have been secretaries, one member thought the radar plotter sounded like a fit. We appreciated that there were those that worked as mechanics, pilots ferrying planes, medics, and of course, the codebreakers! The Dungeon where the codebreakers worked and the men in charge were a hot topic-the smoke, the drinking, the snobbery, all appalling. Just the thought of approaching the stairs and entering drew lots of remarks! We read the author's explanation of the difference between codes and ciphers and concluded the codebreakers were brilliant! We discussed survivor's guilt, the way Germans, Italians, and the Japanese were treated here in the states, and men in power and misuse of that power. We appreciated the way the threads were all tied up by the ending, though a surprise. The stunning descriptions of the Mauna Kea Hotel and the surroundings have us all wishing for a trip to Hawaii. We appreciated the brilliant, unique roles of women in war."

Menu: "We met at tropical Tommy Bahamas restaurant for a chopped salad with shrimp, coconut shrimp, and Mahi Mahi Tacos. Tropical beverages included. Cloud Coconut Martinis and Jalapeno Margaritas."

Books and Brew: "The story takes place in 1943 and 1965. It's 1943, and Isabel Cooper, who has lost her older brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor, is working as a code breaker, solving Japanese naval codes. Isabel seizes an opportunity to solve codes in Hawaii to locate her brother’s friends and learn about his life. In Hawaii, she stumbles into a life-changing mystery. In 1965, aspiring journalist Lu Freitas is traveling to the Mauna Kea Hotel for its grand opening, when she befriends a famous woman. When her new friend disappears, Lu investigates and soon uncovers a missing link to the past. We discussed women in history, World War II, the relationship between the main character to her friend and her brother's friends, her internal struggle, and women's roles during the war. I was so grateful to have received this book early for my book club! I was so immersed in the characters and their story, I couldn't put it down! Five stars!"

Reading is My Cardio, Smithfield, Rhode Island;  Bookish Ladies, Coto De Caza, California; Next Chapter, Leesburg, Virginia
SIX DAYS IN ROME by Francesca Giacco (Grand Central, 5/22)
A young artist travels to Rome to heal a broken heart, where she confronts loneliness and intimacy, rage and desire in this debut novel.

Reading is My Cardio: "We adored this lyrical and atmospheric debut! It was refreshing to read a book with realistically flawed characters and where not everything gets tied up in a perfect bow. This character-driven story explores relationships in so many forms - family, romantic, and with one's self - and the writing is just beautiful. Truly a perfect book for summer, transporting us to Rome for a captivating six days. We discussed how this isn't a book with a lot of plot and yet it kept us interested throughout. We loved the writing and many of us highlighted passages that we shared and discussed, and the group also touched on whether we'd be able to travel solo as the main character did. Another subject that came up was how the narrative is almost stream of consciousness which some of our group enjoyed more than others. We recommend this book to clubs that enjoy being transported to another place and appreciate character-driven books about self-discovery."

Menu: "Italian-themed cocktail party featuring charcuterie, Aperol Spritzes, and a gelato bar for dessert."

Bookish Ladies: "SIX DAYS IN ROME was beautifully written We enjoyed the food and descriptions around Rome! We loved how the book was written in terms of description and character development. It was a lighter, summer read. We felt l the character had a lot to work out but she never quite figured out what it was so there were a lot of questions left up for interpretation."

Menu: Italian rosé, homemade flatbreads with Italian pesto, mozzarella, fresh basil, aged balsamic, and roasted tomatoes.

Next Chapter: “Everyone agreed that Francesca Giacco's writing was beautiful,—and it was fun to read her book looking for food and drink that members can make and enjoy at book club! Emilia heads off on a six-day trip to Rome—it was supposed to be a romantic trip with her then-boyfriend Michael. but that’s not possible as he is married! With six days in Rome, Emilia will have time to reflect on why it wouldn’t work, why she deserves better, and time to enjoy the food and wine on her trip. We discussed what we thought happened to Michael: we had differing opinions to whether he had died or was with someone else or married. During her trip, she reflects on her relationship with her father and brother, and has lots of yummy food and drink throughout. We were happy that she met someone new and Emilia Is able to focus on herself and her art. Her six days in Rome weren’t what she had planned when she booked the trip, but sometimes better things come out of bad situations. Ah, the magic of Italy! One of our members took her book to Rome and shared photos."

Menu: “We enjoyed Aperol Spritz cocktails, a charcuterie board, tiramisu, and wine-soaked grapes”.

Peoria Book Rack, Illinois, Thrillers by the Book Orange County, California *Novels N Latte, Hudson Valley, New Yor
THE GOOD SISTER by Sally Hepworth (St. Martins Press, 2021)
A psychological thriller about the lies that bind two sisters.

Peoria Book Rack: “We agreed it was fast-paced and a quick read. The story keeps you guessing as you try to figure out the family dynamic between sisters Rose and Fern. the journals, their relationship with the mom, the twists! We also discussed Hepworth's versatility as an author. She has a solid list of backlist books that many of us are excited to check out! We recommend for book clubs that enjoy family thrillers.”

Thrillers by the Book: “Everyone loves Sally Hepworth, and this was a favorite! A likable main character and a fun story. We talked about representation in books, and the importance of character-driven books, and how her writing style is relatable and easy to read."

Novels N Latte: “Perfect for our club. We love good twisted family dynamics, and this sister story gave us a lot to discuss, including Fern's autism spectrum and which was actually the good sister.”

Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, East Lawrence High School Book Club of Trinity, Alabama, Reckless Readers of  Eastford, Connecticut, and North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania
DARK AND SHALLOW LIES by Ginny Myers Sain (Penguin Teen, 2021)

A supernatural thriller about a teen girl who disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp.

Reckless Readers: The story hooked the teens— they enjoyed the love story and the witchy aspect, and our adult readers also loved the book. We included teen daughters who wanted to join, and teachers and librarians in the group who wanted to preview it before ordering for their locations. A few of them have not read YA books, so it was a nice and unexpected change for them. We liked the Southern setting, and how the author submerged us in Bayou. From gigantic gators ( Willie Nelson) to psychic abilities, shapeshifter, and Aurora readers, this book is a full experience. The end was shocking and fit the story. We recommend this book for those that enjoy a hint of magic within a southern setting.

Menu: "Southern delights mentioned in the book: Honey’s Pralines, Willie Nelson’s Gator Piss cocktail—with Midori, lime juice, rum, sweet & sour mix, and seltzer—Cajun wings and shrimp dip."

North Wales Area Library: “Our group had one of the best discussions we can remember!”This was an excellent selection and discussion. The book brought the Louisiana bayou setting to life. One member was raised in the area and she especially thought the setting description was spot on. The group wondered why the word ‘shallow’ was included in the title: The lies did not seem shallow. We debated the killer, books were pulled out and theories shared. The hurricane preparation made for interesting reading. We discussed why an outside investigation might not have happened. All said they would read another Sain book and looked forward to the next book in the series. We hope to have our adult group discuss DARK AND SHALLOW LIES with our teen book club! Our group rates books with 1-5 stars. The lowest rating in the group was 4.5! We recommend this book to clubs who enjoy reading outside of the box.”

ELHS Book Club: “Thank you for providing yet another wonderful book for our students! We discussed the setting bayous, swamps, cypress trees, alligators, shrimp boats and houses on stilts. The author did an excellent job painting a picture for the reader. We also discussed mental illness which is woven into the plot through a couple of characters via subtle behaviors and downright craziness.

Menu: jambalaya, gumbo, and pistolette rolls.

Book Club Girls: “Don't be turned away by the YA label, this book is for all ages. It was completely off our radar as far as genre, and many readers gave it five stars, and couldn't believe it was a debut novel. One member stayed up until 5 am to finish— she just had to know the end! The writing was fantastic. We discussed the book is marketed as a YA title, however, NONE of us are near that demographic We felt the characters could be aged up to the 30s and 40' and still make sense—they were just as vital to the storyline as the plot. We felt the novel touched on mystery and supernatural themes but also the deep-rooted impact of emotional trauma that shapes us. We discussed how keeping secrets buried for so many years by everyone caused so much heartache and pain. If truths were told from the start, what would the lives of the children have been like?? A great evening with lots of thoughtful discussions and fun had by all."

Menu: Hurricane Punch, crawfish, gator bites, cajun fried catfish, and cornbread.

Lit Ladies Read Book Club of Melbourne, Florida and Thrillers by the Book of Costa Mesa, California
THE YOUNGER WIFE by Sally Hepworth, (St. Martins Press, 4/22)
A new novel of domestic suspense that delves into a tangled web of family secrets, and lies.

Lit Ladies Read: "We loved this book and had a great discussion, which centered on the theme of perceived reality. We had a great debate about whether Stephen was actually an abuser or just misunderstood. The epilogue raised more questions than provided answers. Our group had varying opinions depending on which character’s perspective we were discussing. We all enjoyed the ambiguous nature of the ending and agreed it was very clever. It was a lot of fun to discuss our own opinions and debate what we believed to be the truth. Some of our members took the book at face value, while others questioned what we had read and what we believed to be the truth.

"We liked how the story was told with alternating points of view and followed along easily when the perspective changed. The book dealt with some serious topics but was written in a very light-hearted way that made it a quick enjoyable read."

Menu: “Heather would have been proud! We met at a country club,  in true Aston fashion. We had Mahi tacos and quesadillas in honor of Rachel and Darcy’s first date.”

Thrillers by the Book: "A perfect match! We’re big fans of Sally Hepworth! We loved the intriguing vibe the author created by not revealing right away who was involved in the accident from the opening scene. The story is based on many factors, dysfunctional family dynamics, abusive relationships, addiction, mental issues, and so many juicy secrets. We enjoyed Sally’s writing style and the characters she created. Sally has a way of making her characters very relatable and down to earth. We also enjoyed how she connected a piece of her real-life to one of the scenes in this book. Some of the secondary characters seemed to love Stephen but Heather and his kids suspect him of being abusive. The ending left us wondering if Stephen was in actual fact abusive. The women around him suffered a lot of 'accidents' but it’s never clear if they were really accidents or intentional. We recommend this title for book clubs that enjoy a family drama with a hint of suspense. Thank you for spoiling our book club!"

Page Ladies of Cleveland, Ohio, Bibliobibuli of San Diego, California, and HAH Reading Club of Kaukama, Wisconsin
THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY by Sherri L. Smith ((Penguin Young Readers, 2//20)
From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war.

Page Ladies: “Thank you for sharing this amazing, compelling, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking story about life in Japan during World War II. We were surprised by how much research went into it, and we are always interested in books that can teach us something. The story switches between Taro and Hana's perspectives so we see two sides of the story and what each experienced. Could we imagine being Hana, having to take care of the kamikaze pilots and then say goodbye to them, knowing that they will more than likely die? We talked about Hana and the pilot—how they felt at the beginning of the book versus the end— as well as the choices that surprised us and whether we would do the same. This was an emotional read and the pace moves well with the story."

Bibliobibuli: “Our members enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY, and our chat with author Sherri Smith was especially enjoyable. The novel is a fictionalized account of young kamikaze pilots and the teen-aged girls who provided platonic camaraderie and emotional support to them during World War II. Smith employs lyrical prose to introduce the reader to war-torn Japan and the youth culture that rallied around Emperor Hirohito. We appreciated learning more about the Japanese perspective on World War II. Hana’s disparaging remarks about Americans made us realize that we had never heard from the youth of Japan about the events of the war."

HAH Reading Club: We really enjoyed THE BLOSSOM AND THE FIREFLY and its different perspectives on World War II We discussed how the novel reminded us of the current situation with the Ukrainian and Russian war. The author talked about remembering so it doesn’t happen again, and we discussed how emotional we felt about the abuse, propaganda, and conditioning that happened to prepare the civilians and boys for the war.
We compared how the reading of trauma and the emotional impact, ranges based on the age of the reader. We discussed the comparison of how being ready for death in a moment you can’t control, such as a reaction to an air raid, and the premeditated preparation of the pilots to body-crash was handled and how the author gave us both views. We also found how the invasion was perceived after all the preparations made to fight to the death as the expectation from the government. We recommend this novel to clubs looking for an emotional experience with a dive into other cultures."

Happy Bookers of Linn, Missouri, Fab Five of Appleton, Wisconsin, Next Chapter of Frisco, Texas
LAST DANCE ON THE STARLIGHT PIER by Sarah Bird (St. Martin's Press, 4/22)

Set during the Great Depression, novel about one woman—and a nation—struggling to be reborn from the ashes

The Happy Bookers: “Get your dancing shoes on and get ready for the world of dance marathons in the 1930s in LAST DANCE ON THE STARLIGHT PIER,” -During an era of great hardship and poverty, the dance marathons were a diversion and an inexpensive form of entertainment to many struggling families. Evie, Zave, and Sofie, and a cast of characters face the hardships of the time with love and loss. Members discussed interesting aspects of the history of this time, particularly the popularity and duration of the dance marathons, and compared our entertainment now to the Depression-era. We discussed the mob and vice culture in Chicago and Galveston and the ending that brought unforeseen surprises that gave us much to wonder about and inspired us to research the history that this novel brings to light. We recommend this book to book clubs who enjoy historical fiction with an intriguing storyline.”

Menu: “We wanted to find an outdoor pier but dreary weather brought us to a restaurant with a pier/dock feel —barrels/railings, and we added our dancing shoes! We imagined French 75 cocktails that the author suggested (tinyurl.com/SarahBirdBuzz) And we dreamed of Baked Alaska!”

Fab Five: Set in the 1930s, the Dance Marathon is a prominent subject, and how people lived during The Great Depression, is poignantly described by the author.As we are immersed in the 1930s, it became easy to see why the main characters, Evie and Zave, needed to make many of the choices they did. The attitudes and beliefs about homosexuality during that period, were well portrayed was helpful to have the book divided into prominent sections, so the readers know ‘where’ they are traveling with the characters.

"We discussed the struggles, disappointments, hopes, and dreams. the desire for Evie and Zave to have a family: Each having had dysfunctional families, they longed for a real family, but what would that look like? And, was it different for each of them? We know that these two have a special connection, but what is it? There is much in this book: presidential elections, deep friendships, love, family dysfunction, mystery, deception, and a surprise ending. We recommend this book to those who enjoy sweeping historical fiction."

Next Chapter: "This was a great match for our book club! We love it when we not only enjoy the book but ca can learn something new. We had no idea that during The Great Depression that dance marathons were held and that it was a way for people to earn money and be fed three meals a day. Dance marathons also provided cheap entertainment for the spectators. We were fascinated by how couples would dance for weeks, with one partner often dragging the other along as they slept. None of us thought that we would last very long in the character’s shoes.

We held our discussion at a Speakeasy, the Rare Books Bar in Frisco, Texas, where an old phone booth sits outside the front door, requiring guests to dial the ‘librarian’ and name a classic piece of literature before being granted entry. This is much like the scene in the book where takes Evie is taken to a secret bar to learn the ‘truth’ about Zave— they entered through a phone booth by providing a password. This was fun and we loved playing out this scene. Though, we did not see Zave in the dark restaurant, he could have been there".


Kings Chapel Morning Club of Arrington, Tennessee, Eagle Eyes of  Westchester, Illinois, Read Between The Wines of  Iron Mountain, Michigan, Book Buddies of Baldwinsville, New York, Andrea’s Book Club of Clarksville, Maryland, Books and Cooks of Elk Grove, California
ON A NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS by Andrea Yaryura Clark (Grand Central, 3/22)
A young couple confronts the start of Argentina's Dirty War in the 1970s, and a daughter searches for truth twenty years later.

Kings Chapel Morning Book Club:  “A great match! Everyone liked ON A NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS, and we enjoyed reading historical fiction about a time period we didn't know much about. This novel takes place in the 1970s in Argentina and while we were all alive during that time, reading the book highlighted the fact that none of us knew how bad the dictatorship in Argentina really was. So many people  ‘disappeared’ and their families were left never knowing what happened to them. One member had studied and traveled in Argentina during college and she enjoyed reading about the places she had been. We discussed the romantic entanglements and were surprised that the love story seemed to be the main focus, set against the backdrop of the political landscape of Argentina. The last quarter of the book moves quickly with dramatic and very tragic events. It's hard to understand why some characters made the decisions they did, but given the circumstances, it seemed like the right thing at the time. We recommend this book to clubs who enjoy historical fiction with a love story.”

Eagle Eyes: "ON A NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS generated more discussion for our book club than any recent reads. Most of us knew little about Argentina's Dirty War, and this book brought that history to life.  We loved learning about a place and time about which most of us knew little. We often read historical fiction but have not read any set in Argentina or that period. We discussed the shocking and brutal events and parallels to current-day politics. One member had visited and shared photos and stories and the information in the book club guide was wonderful. Another member wrote: "It both taught me about how the Argentina/Peronistas had terrorized their own populace in the 70s, as well as had me entranced with the characters and their development. The author’s use of alternating decades to tell the story of the ‘disappeared’ worked very well.'Those in additional book clubs have already suggested it as their next read! The book club guide had great information. We also enjoyed our chat with Andrea Clark!This was a wonderful book that we might not have read otherwise!"

Menu: "Argentinian food, empanadas, pastel de papa, dulce de leche, and Argentinian wine and beer.

Read Between The Wines: ”We love reading books that we haven't heard of and that we may not have read otherwise such as this one. Before the discussion, we watched the YouTube video of Andrea's film "Recovering the Missing". It was a shock to our club that none of us had heard of ‘the disappeared in Argentina. We discussed the relationships in the book and how they enhanced the story. Other than the horrors of the killings, tortures, kidnappings, and disappearances it was appalling to think that the perpetrators of the crimes were pardoned. We also discussed the quote by Golda Meir and how relevant this quote was to Argentina, and other times in history that certain groups are trying to erase the events of and the instances in the book that were reflected in the title.”

Menu: Empanadas, Argentinian meatballs, mashed potatoes,  flan with Dulce de Leche

Book Buddies: “A great fit— we always enjoy reading historical fiction that informs. We discussed the title and thought it was representative of two particular scenes in the book and a nod to the title of one of the songs from 'Evita' called 'On This Night of A Thousand Stars.' We thought the writing was vivid, and the topic gripping. We liked the character development; Santiago’s as seen through Paloma's eyes as she learns his history and hers through the search for the truth of her identity and the fate of her birth mother. Especially affecting was reading about the struggles in Argentina in the 1970s-1990s, and for many years previously during the war happening now in Ukraine. The deaths and disappearances, people fleeing their home countries to find asylum, are, unfortunately, ongoing realities. The historical information regarding the ‘Dirty War’ was new to all of us, although we understand the unrest in many governments in almost all South American countries. The author did a good job of treating the brutality and grief of the people involved with sensitivity. Not usually big fans of dual timelines, we felt this one worked especially well and was not at all confusing as the chapters were short; easier to keep track of both Santiago's 70s storyline and Paloma's 90s storyline."

Menu: Argentinian chimichurri sauce that we used as a dip for bread!

Books N Cooks: "A good match!. We all enjoy historical fiction, travel, and a book with good themes. We discussed adoption and how it has affected each of us differently. Most of us had not been aware of the 'Dirty War' and were horrified at the atrocities. We discussed travel to Buenos Aires and Argentina, of which the book sparked interest in.”

Menu: Empanadas de Pollo Chorizo, bread and chimichurri,  mini tacos

Andrea's: "We loved this book. Thank you for the opportunity to read it, discuss our thoughts, and ask questions of the author. How woefully unaware we were of this history! We learned a lot and had a good discussion about both the events and the characters—the dynamics between the characters and the choices that they made.  How history repeats itself and events are mirrored somewhat in current events. We recommend this novel to those seeking a realistic perspective into historical events from a very human point of view.”

Menu: Empanadas and matcha drinks, and Argentinian wine!


Tolstoy to Twilight Book Club of Edmond Oklahoma and  We're All Booked Here of Wareham, Massachusetts
THE SUITE SPOT by Trish Doller, (St. Martins Press, 3/22)
A novel about taking a chance on a new life and a new love.

Tolstoy to Twilight: We had a lively discussion of Trish Doller'ss newest book! Thank you for sending galleys of this fantastic novel." (FLOAT PLAN, anyone?) sees single mom Rachel uprooting her not-so-glamorous life in Miami Beach to move to an island on Lake Erie for a job that isn’t exactly as advertised. Toss in one broody, moody brew maker for romance and tension and we have a lot more than your average rom-com.
We discussed how natural the chemistry and romance seemed between our main characters. How upset we would have been to uproot our lives to find that the hotel/job wasn’t as promised. How fulfilling it is to see your hard work actually create something unique. We loved that it was more than just a rom-com: it was more about both of them rebuilding their lives and doing it together. New beginnings. We recommend this book to groups that enjoy non-cliche romance stories. Get your copy now!"

We're All Booked Here: We absolutely loved THE SUITE SPOT. This was such a great opportunity to connect our book club readers with one of our highly anticipated titles, and it was an excellent match for our book club. We loved the story and had a great discussion about the character arcs in the book and the hotel/tourism industry. We were also able to connect with Trish to join a portion of our discussion which was a wonderful opportunity!

We delved into the relationships between the characters in the story, including that of the heroine and her daughter's biological father. We discussed how much we enjoyed that the story was much deeper than a typical rom-com, but still had some light moments. We also loved discussing the idea of the brewery hotel featured throughout the book and the setting of the story on the small island. We recommend THE SUITE SPOT to book clubs that enjoy romantic comedies that have some depth."

Menu:  We met over Zoom, but our food selections included sushi, beer, and fish and chips (unfortunately no fried perch!)


The Wine Club with a Book Problem  of Acworth, Georgia,  Over-Readers Anonymous Book Club  of Cumming, Georgia, and The Fab Five of Appleton, Wisconsin
BLOOMSBURY GIRLS by Natalie Jenner (St. Martins Press, 5/22)
A novel about post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world.

The Wine Club with a Book Problem: The Wine Club with a Book Problem thoroughly enjoyed BLOOMSBURY GIRLS, a heart-warming story that we highly recommend. "The war is over but London is still not the same; women who had stood in place for men at war are now being uprooted so the men can be back in charge. Bloomsbury Girls is about Bloomsbury Books and three such women. The bookstore is a stodgy old place run inefficiently by men; until Grace, Vivian and Evie decide they are tired of men telling them what they can & cannot do & tired of waiting for their dreams to be fulfilled. The women make friends with some dazzling female authors of the time —Daphne Du Maurier for one— who help them along their journey.

We had a great discussion about how difficult it was for women in 1950 to be recognized for their accomplishments in the workforce and how far women have come today. We also discussed new beginnings, class and gender conflict, prejudice, similarities between the women and Ash, who recently immigrated from India, the author's writing and crafting style and the foreshadowing of the chapter with the '51 Rules'.

Menu: 1950s fare, to reflect the book’s time period: Tom Collins  Pimento Stuffed Celery, Pineapple Walnut Cheese Ball, Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs , Shepherd's Pie, a nod to a British class  Corn Casserole.

Over-Readers Anonymous:

We all enjoyed BLOOMSBURY GIRLS, and it was a great match for our book club. The bookstore itself is like a character."It was a treat to see the inclusion of several characters from THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, which we suggest reading. We shared stories of visiting London, and this book has inspired us to plan another trip soon. It also inspired reading titles mentioned in the book, including REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier. several of us had read THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY before reading BLOOMSBURY GIRLS, which also inspired a Jane Austen read-a-thon!

The map the author provided helped us imagine the bookshop setting. We cared about the characters and the developing relationships between them and The plot was creative, and we all liked the character list and the chapter divisions including the shop rules were helpful."

Menu: “A tea party with tea sandwiches, scones, jam, fruit, and muffins. We brought our favorite tea to share, including Chai. We contemplated going to an Indian restaurant as a nod to the character Ashwin."

The Fab Five: "We love historical fiction but had not read anything set in post-WWII England,  and this was a delightful read. The three female protagonists were well developed —each had their own story and path to working in the book store. It was hard to agree on a favorite female character, but our favorite male was Lord Baskin., who was ahead of his time in the way he thought of women. We focused on the 1950s, and the role that women were still playing in society, yet the fact that women were growing restless and wanting more. Conversely, the male characters were ‘stuck’ in their traditional roles, often upset by not being able to ‘control’ the women. Discussing the bookstore as a setting brought back memories for the baby boomers in our group: we could ‘see’ the cash register, book sections, Alec up on the ladder looking down.   Through the bookstore, the women had been able to meet other women of higher social standing that wanted to help them succeed. Relationships, courage, male dominance in society, societal differences, intrigue—so many things to make us think.”

Montana's Book Club of Milford, Connecticut, Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin, and the Finer Things of Brentwood, California
I MUST BETRAY YOU by Ruta Sepetys (PenguinTeen, 2/22)
A historical thriller about Soviet-era Romania and the citizen spy network that devastated a nation.

Montana's Book Club: "We have already recommended I MUST BETRAY YOU to so many and will continue to do so. This book taught us so much and we can't wait to read more books by Ruta Sepetys.

"Reading this book amidst the Russia/Ukraine conflict is heartbreaking. None of us had any idea about communism in Romania and were absolutely shocked that conditions like those described in the book can be overlooked in our education and overlooked by the US and other countries during that time, especially it was only 30 years ago! We discussed how unimaginable it would be to live in the conditions Romanians were dealing with us. Some aspects that shocked us were the food lines, the number of informers, and the necessity to bribe others with contraband to get anything done.

This story takes place in communist Romania in 1989 and follows 17-year-old Christian as he navigates politics and tries to protect his loved ones. You really feel like you are in Christian's mind as he is trying to unravel the government and free his country. He is constantly questioning who around him is an informer, as well as being forced into being an informer himself. You are getting the raw struggle of helping his family while also feeling like he is betraying everyone around him. His relationships were well developed and I feel the ending was very satisfactory. We are not huge historical fiction readers so we picked this book to get out of our comfort zone, and initiate conversations we wouldn't have after reading our usual genres. We recommend I MUST BETRAY YOU TO those interested in learning about history and the resilience of others! We would really recommend this book to everyone!"

Sensational Seven: "This is our book club's third Ruta Sepetys novel and several members have had the honor of hearing her speak at our city’s book festival. Her books serve as reminders for those who lived through the history of her stories and have the great ability to teach future generations of these impactful times. We love historical fiction and Ruta Sepetys is a favorite author her books we carry with us long after having finished her stories. We love her passion in her mission to have such important stories in history not only told, but truly heard. The title is such a great description of the painful and powerful story that unfolds throughout this book.

"We discussed that all members were college freshmen or high school seniors during the revolution in Romania. We knew of Ceausescu, but, sadly, few of us knew about the history of the uprising in great detail. One member of our group spoke of Sepetys’ books as 'the best history and moral theology class combined.' We spoke of our strong belief that history truly needs a voice and the author’s undeniable success in doing just that. The courage of the young Romanian college students leading the revolt from this time was unfathomable. The constant fear that all Romanians lived in constantly was heartbreaking. We admire Ruta’s writing talent along with her mission to have such give a voice to such important historical stories."

Menu: Coca Cola and Twinkies which were written about as contraband in the book.

The Finer Things Club of Brentwood, California: "Thank you Ruta Sepetys for writing this book and sharing the history of the Romanian people, a history that isn’t talked about our even taught and is so important. We learned so much! We loved the book and most of us were shocked that we didn’t know any of the history. It was eye-opening! All of us said we will read the author's other books.
We love and read historical fiction, and we discussed how never learned this history in school or it relates to what is still happening in the world today. How brave the people were for standing up.his book is filled with bravery, strength, and love of country. The story of Romania living under the communist regime is fiction, the dictatorship and the suffering of the Romanian people are very real. History must be shared and written and discussed. We must never forget the suffering, we must never forget the sacrifice and we must always remember that We must always stand up for our Freedom! I MUST BETRAY YOU is so beautifully written and breaks your heart while showing you the resilience of humanity. We recommend this book to book clubs that enjoy learning about history and bravery. We recommend this book to everyone!"

Lit Ladies Read of Melbourne, Florida and Wine! Women! Words! of Brookfield, Wisconsin
THE CHRISTIE AFFAIR by Nina de Gramont (St. Martin’s Press, 2/22)
A historical mystery that reimagines the unexplained eleven-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926, which captivated the world. 

Lit Ladies Read: “THE CHRISTIE AFFAIR gave us so much to talk about including the treatment of women during this period, motherhood, marriage and relationships, and the mysteries. We all liked the alternating timelines, especially reading about Nan’s past. We didn't expect this book to be o centered around Nan’s story, but it was a pleasant surprise as the majority of the group found her story to be most engrossing.

The treatment of women during this time was a central discussion point. Specifically, we discussed the treatment of unwed pregnant women like Nan. As mothers, this particular piece of the story was heartbreaking. A few members researched convents and the infamous Irish Laundries, and we were all shocked to learn that several Irish Laundries remained in existence until the 1990s.

We also discussed how Agatha was treated compared to Nan. We believed that the disparity was caused by Agatha’s social status and Agatha’s general attitude toward life. Agatha was able to navigate life in ' man’s world' not only be she was well to do but because she was selfish. She often put herself before everyone else in her life, especially her daughter.

We enjoyed that he was an Agatha Christie-style mystery and were intrigued by the backstories that led up to the mystery. We all agreed the ending was the best part of the story and a very creative twist explaining the murder and revenge plot!

Menu: English and Irish breakfast tea with scones and Irish shortbread.

Words! Women! Wine!: “THE CHRISTIE AFFAIR was a perfect match for our book club! We were not familiar with Agatha Christie's disappearance. Several members researched which aspects of the plot were true and found photos of Agatha & Archie Christie It was particularly fun to read as the novel exploded in the press and social media shortly after receiving our galleys. We love historical fiction, so we were all intrigued by the premise Several members love books written by an unreliable narrator - and this fit the bill! We also tend to judge a book by its cover and this cover is very inviting.

Our discussion focused on Nan, as hers was the central storyline. We wondered if the author had personal experience with someone who inspired the story as the details were very thought-provoking, especially the heart-wrenching, detailed scenes in the Irish Laundry. We discussed the time Nan spent there. We found it strange that Agatha would leave her child and disappear, but also that she seemed to be an afterthought to both of her parents. We also discussed how Nan prioritized being with her daughter over the love of her life, and what a difficult decision that would be, especially since we were never really sure that Teddy was Nan’s biological daughter. We didn’t see the two huge plot twists coming and there was much discussion about how organized and methodical our protagonist had been to plan everything so well It was fun to hijack our book club list and try something different and now we are big proponents of GalleyMatch!"

Neighbors of Cranberry Book Club of Plain City, Ohio, Kings Chapel Evening Book Club, and Junior League of Kalamazoo, Michigan Book Club
CATCH US WHEN WE FALL by Juliette Fay (2021, William Morrow)
Determined to stop drinking when she finds herself pregnant, Cass Macklin turns to the only sober friend she has—Scott McGreavy, third baseman for the Boston Red Sox, a man with a temper and problems of his own.

Neighbors of Cranberry: “All of us enjoyed reading and discussingCATCH US WHEN WE FALL  until late at night, which means it was the perfect book club gathering. We hadn't read a book about the struggles of alcoholism so that brought up lots of conversations, especially about how hard Cass works to turn her life around and break her alcoholism cycle. Cass had her ups and downs but she also had strong support with Scotty, and we felt that the stability is what helped her the most. We liked his baseball player/team perspective. We talked about how even a cookout (which we have often in the summer with our families) would be hard for someone struggling with alcoholism as well as how much commitment AA meetings are, but how beneficial they are. This book had heart. Highly recommended!"

Menu: “We had light snacks, and the hostess included many bottles of  San Pellegrino to keep with the alcohol-free theme!”

Kings Chapel Evening Book Club:" CATCH US WHEN WE FALL was a big hit with my book club!. It was different from anything we've read."

"The main subject, alcoholism recovery, brought lots of lively discussion within our group. Almost everyone knew someone who is affected by alcoholism so there were a lot of different stories and memories triggered. We loved that the main character, Cass, was treated with compassion as she battled her addiction and tried to do what was best for her unborn baby.

Although it is about a tough subject, there are light-hearted moments that keep the story from spiraling into the deep dark. You will laugh and cry, and be anxious about choices being made but you will whole-heartedly be cheering for Cass all the way through.

Juliette Fay joined us for a Zoom discussion and she was just lovely. She chatted with us about how she came up with the idea for the book and developed the characters. We had a fun, lively discussion. So thankful that Juliette was willing to join us! It brings the book to life in such a fun way!

Junior League:  "We really enjoyed CATCH US WHEN WE FALL and it sparked a lot of discussion, providing a nice mix of good topics and light-hearted entertainment. Our discussion focused on the idea of what a stereotypical alcoholic looks like and our own perceptions around them. As a women's organization focusing on the well-being of women and children, we were especially invested in the women’s stories as it relates to their children and the resources available to them.

We normally meet at a member's home, but we had such a large group interested, that we met at a rental space, had a pizza party, and made blankets for our local children’s hospital.”

It was fun being matched with a book that we normally wouldn’t have picked, and being provided galleys brought more members to our discussion than usual!"

Book Club 2.0 of Phoenix, Arizona and John Champe High School Project LIT of Aldie, Virginia
THE PASSING PLAYBOOK by Isaac Fitzsimons (Penguin Young Readers, 6/1/2021)
Love, Simon meets Bend It Like Beckham in this feel-good contemporary romance about a trans athlete who must decide between fighting for his right to play and staying stealth.

Book Club 2.0: "High marks from all of us! We thought THE PASSING PLAYBOOK was an amazing read that needs to be in the hands of so many types of readers!"- Book Club 2.0 of Phoenix, Arizona on @isaacfitzy’sTHE PASSING PLAYBOOK  read with advance copies from @penguinteen via #GalleyMatch.

"We loved the celebration of the trans community and LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Not every book in the LGBTQ+ genre needs to be rooted in tragedy - we thought the author did such an amazing job at shining a light on how joyful and typical life was for Spencer, his friends & family. For those of us with teens, the everyday high school life really rang true and we felt like teens, and even pre-teens, could easily connect and relate to Spencer's story and life situations, no matter their gender or identity. The everyday activism weaved into the story is such a fantastic way to show how we can all be better allies even in our day to day lives. 

The book was well-paced and written with such insight and humor. Everyone rated it highly and wanted to read more from the author and about his characters! It met our interests, as a heartwarming friendship and light romance stories that gently challenge you to be better  THE PASSING PLAYBOOK would be a terrific addition to classroom libraries! A truly amazing debut. We can't wait to hear what the author will be releasing next!"

Project LIT: This heartwarming contemporary romance featuring lots of soccer action and social issues was very much aligned with our reading choices: Mixed reactions which sparked a lively discussion. Some members wHo were not romance fan  felt that Spencer took his parents for granted and should have been more understanding of Justice and his situation. Others really appreciated how closely this book mirrors current events in our county. The sponsors loved Spencer's supportive parents and how the book portrayed them constantly trying even though they didn't always get it right. In particular, the scene where Spencer's dad helps him to get dressed for the dance was really touching. T

The kids felt very passionate about the right of trans/nonbinary people to come out only when they feel comfortable to do so and in their own time. The kids were outraged that the school's policy forced Spencer to out himself, but agreed that it was ultimately empowering that he was able to do so and to help create a safe space for other trans kids at his school."

Clarkston Women's Book Club of Waterford, Michigan and Corte Madera Literary And Munching Society (CLAMS) of California
BEAUTIFUL LITTLE FOOLS by Jillian Cantor (
Harper Perennial, 2/22)
A novel that reimagines the literary classic The Great Gatsby is told in three women’s alternating voices.

Clarkston Women's Book Club: “We invited the author, Jillian Cantor, to join our discussion via Zoom. It was fantastic--a huge treat! Jillian was tremendously gracious, down-to-earth, kind, and fun to be with. “

"We thought that character development and the mystery was interesting and the alternative perspective from a female point of view was powerful. We asked Jillian to tell us about her character development, why she elected to write this book as a different perspective on Gatsby,  what her writing process looks like, how she did her research. and which character was her favorite character among many other questions! Jillian shared that she was speaking with a friend about writing Gatsby from the perspective of the women in the story. She wrote BEAUTIFUL LITTLE FOOLS in a short time, taking some of the facts from Gatsby and expanding the female characters.  We were intrigued to learn about her writing process and to consider writing her 'job' somehow we had all glamorized it." 

CLAMS: "We appreciated the opportunity to preview this 5-star book which reimagines The Great Gatsby. We love historical fiction, especially with a mystery component, and Beautiful Little Fools generated animated discussions about the morals, culture, and lifestyles of the 1920s.  We had fun with costumes as some of our group’s members dressed to match the clothing and accessories of the period.

A few readers felt that Beautiful Little Fools works wonderfully as a standalone novel, but several highly recommend reading, or re-reading Gatsby first."With the original fresh in my mind, I was amazed at how this novel fits so well with Gatsby, like a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces making the story complete.'

We discussed the choices available to the women in the novel, during an era when women were limited in their vocations, education, and importance in the workforce and in society, and how the different backgrounds the women came from affected their outlook on life and their decision-making.  

We decorated the table with antiques and props including a cocktail shaker, toy gun, pearls, and other jewelry, cigarette case from the 1920s, rhinestone hair clip like the one mentioned in the novel, and more. The evening was as entertaining and enjoyable as the book itself! 

We recommend this for those who enjoy a  fresh view on a classic novel, lively discussions about period novels,  and who have fun with costumes and food choices."

Menu: Bourbon rickeys, combining the bourbon several of the characters drank with the gin rickeys in the novel, chocolate torte, cheese and fresh fruit platters, nuts, and individually wrapped candies. 

Sensational Seven of Appleton, Wisconsin and Reading Between the Wines of Albany, New York
LUCK OF THE TITANIC by Stacey Lee (Penguin Teen, 5/21)
The story of Valora and Jamie Luck, twin British-Chinese acrobats traveling aboard the Titanic on its ill-fated maiden voyage.

Sensational Seven: "We had never read a book based on the Titanic and this will definitely, not be the last! Stacey H. Lee is a beautiful, vivid writer, who brings a clear picture to mind of the setting of this story.Lee easily transports her readers to climb aboard the Titanic and visualize images of the luxurious upper decks and also, the lower levels reserved for the working class and immigrants, who were aboard the ship.”None of us had heard of The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and how horribly and unfairly, the Chinese were treated. The storyline of LUCK OF THE TITANIC revolves around Chinese/British acrobatic siblings, Jamie and Valora Luck. While they both held different aspirations for their futures, Val was intent on imploring her brother to perform for a part-owner of the Ringling Brothers circus who was traveling with them on the Titanic and then joining the circus after leaving the ship together. Jamie was already on board with a crew of his fellow Chinese workers, and we would have appreciated seeing further development of these compelling characters.

“As we were familiar with the Titanic's fate, we knew there was a finite timeline leading up to the major event in the story. This made us feel that the characters' storylines outside, of the ship sinking, were a bit too one-dimensional and that the beautiful story of these incredible siblings was somewhat rushed towards the end of the book. All in all, as a group, we thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.

We met via zoom, but one of our members did use her juggling skills, with a pineapple, like the heroine of the book, Valora!"

Reading Between the Wines: "We enjoyed discussing LUCK OF THE TITANIC. We love reading and discussing historical fiction—when it’s well done, we learn about moments in history in more depth and get wrapped up in an immersive story, which is what happened with this book. We enjoyed reading Val’s story, and exploring the bonds of family between her and her brother Jamie, and also the bonds of cultural heritage and friendship. 

"After reading, we were inspired to learn more about the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was enacted for over 60 years and was designed to prevent almost all Chinese immigration to the United States. And we had no idea there were six Chinese men who survived the Titanic. This book is a tribute to their memories and a new angle on the story of the Titanic that we haven’t heard before. This book kept us engaged with the characters throughout, and it kept us guessing as to who would ultimately survive the sinking of the Titanic.  We recommend this book to book clubs that enjoy historical fiction and YA fiction."

Menu: "We took some inspiration from the book, and had tea, oranges, croissants with marmalade, and candied fruit at our book club discussion."

Blu Stocking Lit(erary) Soc(iety) of West Allis, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh Chick Lit Book Club of Pennsylvania,  Boulevard Book Group of Westfield, New Jersey
THE ARTIST COLONY by Joanna Fitzpatrick (She Writes Press, 9/7/2021)
Part mystery, part historical fiction, this novel  1924 celebrates the artistic talents of early women painters, the deep bonds of sisterhood, the muse that is beautiful scenery, and the determination of one young woman to discover the truth, to protect an artistic legacy, and to give her deceased sister the farewell she deserves. 

Blu Stocking Lit(erary) Soc(iety): "Each member found the story to be fascinating and quickly became absorbed We recommend this book to book clubs that enjoy historical fiction, mystery/suspense, and strong female characters. The title implied a certain insularity of location just as the lives these women came there to pursue took them out of the 'norm of the day. We decided to organize as a 'literary society rather than a book club as we usually each pursue our genre of choice and come together to share and discuss. Historical fiction with a mystery is an area we all enjoy and it was fun to read the same book this time and share our insights. "The author's use of color in describing both the paintings and nature created a vivid sense of location. A few members mentioned the historical note at the end regarding the Japanese Internment put the details of Sirena's "passing" into a historical context and made them ponder that time in America's history.

"We had a great discussion on what constitutes a feminist and the role of women over the timeline of the early 1900s to the present. Also had some interesting observations and insights on the women in our families during the 1920s. All of the men seemed to have some type of ulterior motive and built the suspense and kept us guessing as to who did it.”

Menu: "Vegetable lasagna. While abalone is a bit scarce in the Midwest, we followed through on the quote from page 38 "Then all you need is a vegetable garden in your backyard and you will never go hungry?"

Pittsburgh Chick Lit Book Club: “This was a good match!. We enjoy reading historical fiction and recently expanded our reading interests to include mysteries. THE ARTIST COLONY provided us not only with a better understanding of the history of female artists but also provided us with a mystery to keep our interest.

“We found it interesting to compare the Carmel of the 1920' to the Carmel of today. None of us knew the original history of Carmel. It was interesting to learn that Carmel started as a female artist colony. We were also impressed with the level of independence exhibited by the main characters in the book. It was daunting to think about Sarah traveling by herself from France to California in the 1920s. Ada and Rosie's stories were also indicative of strong, independent women. We discussed the level of discrimination faced by female artists, and spent considerable time talking about Sirena's struggle with being not only a female artist but a ‘non-white’ female artist who was passing as white in order to have a chance at success. The level of discrimination against the Japanese in the 1920s was eye-opening and gave some of us the incentive to read more about the integration of immigrants into US society over the years.

We discussed our experiences viewing art in museums and other exhibits and agreed that viewing the art with an ‘expert’ was far more interesting than trying to interpret the art on our own. Learning about the artwork through the eyes of those who knew him and who better understand his art helps us to appreciate his genius as an artist. In Pittsburgh, we are fortunate to have the Andy Warhol Museum, which has several of his family members as employees and docents, and as a result of our discussion, we are planning a field trip to the museum in the Spring of 2022.

Menu: While the food served was not directly related to the theme of the book, we did enjoy a "Death by Chocolate" trifle and pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes.

Boulevard Book Group:

"A great match! THE ARTIST COLONY combines two of our favorite genres, historical fiction and mystery. We loved that Joanna Fitzpatrick could join us for the meeting. Speaking with the author really enhances the book group experience and Joanna fit right in with us.

"We thought the characters were well developed and we cared about Sarah. The inclusion of the little dog Albert added a fun element to the book. None of us guessed 'who done it'. Fitzpatrick is a very visual writer. The reader can really picture the time and place she writes about. One of our members commented, 'I loved reading this book. Every night I looked forward to my virtual trip to Carmel.' Her description of the colors and atmosphere of a place are perfection. You can tell that Joanna did a ton of research on the book. Each of us admitted we ran to google for more information at various times while reading the book. The mix of real and fictional characters gave authenticity to the book.

"We appreciate Joanna's ability to write in such a visual way. We asked if there were plans to turn the book into a movie or series, saying it would be perfect for the screen. We discussed how we've read many historical fiction books set during WWII, so it was great to read a book set in the '20's. We discussed how there are quite a few similarities from that era to our current time, especially the anti-Asian sentiment. We had a fun discussion on the real places in the book. Several of us have been to Keans Steakhouse in NYC and have visited Carmel. It was great to hear that there really were women's artist colonies in the 1920's and the artist cottage in the book is a real house, standing to this day.. We asked Joanna if she knew what the ending would be when she started the book to which she responded that no, it just came as she was writing. It was fascinating to hear about her writing process. We practically begged Joanna to write a sequel to the book hopefully set in France, so we can virtually travel there and since we all grew very fond of Sarah, Albert, and Rosie."

Menu: We were fascinated by the Japanese abalone divers in the book and while we didn't have abalone, one of our group members made a delicious clam dip. Even though the book was set in the prohibition era, we enjoyed wine.

Reckless Readers Book Club of Eastford, Connecticut, Page Ladies Book Club of Cleveland, Ohio
Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins (St. Martins Press, 1/22)
From the author of The Wife Upstairs,  a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set on an isolated Pacific island with a dark history

"RECKLESS GIRLS was a fast-paced thriller with odd twists—a page-turner!."A deserted island. Seven people with something to hide. One person missing. Another dead. Will any of them make it off the island? We loved the mysterious creepy island setting and the tension that comes from it. Something isn’t 100% with each character and this makes it even better—their flashbacks provide 'aha' moments. Rachel Hawkins's writing is so descriptive you'll feel you're on the island with the scorching sun beating down on you! The world-building, the suspense & the tension, and many twists keep you reading! We discussed the characters' actions and what we would have done differently, in the individual relationships, and how some events impacted or changed the dynamics."

Menu: "Fresh fruits, croissants, and coffee."

"A great match! Everyone enjoyed the book. Set on an island with a haunted history. Our book club decided to change its name in honor of our first GalleyMatch. We are now The Reckless Readers! The book sparked a lot of conversation about the characters and their choices. Our biggest discussion revolved around the characters once they made it to the island. A lot goes on when they get there, and we all wanted more! We discussed the Amma/Brittany drama, and how we wanted more of the creepy jungle story."

Menu: "Individual pineapple upside-down cakes and Spam salad were served for a Hawaiian vibe. Confetti cupcakes were made to match the cover. Sushi, for an island vibe, with a strawberry vodka lemonade."

 

MVLS Teen Reads Schenectady, New York, Central Region and Friends, New Berlin, Wisconsin, North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania, John Champe High School Project LIT, Ashburn, Virginia, Mercersburg Academy Book Club, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania

  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (Penguin, 1/19/21, YA)
  • The acclaimed author of ASH returns with her most personal and ambitious novel yet, a gripping story of love and duty set in San Francisco's Chinatown during the 1950s.

MVLS Teen Reads Schenectady, New York, Central Region and Friends, New Berlin, Wisconsin, North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania, John Champe High School Project LIT, Ashburn, Virginia, Mercersburg Academy Book Club, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania

MVLS Teen Reads: "This title, especially, was something that we might not have chosen so it was neat to do a "'et what you get' and read away We are a small group of professionals who enjoyed reading and discussing a piece of YA fiction that is bound to be much discussed during the coming months. Coming into Pride month it was certainly timely. We are a bunch of nerds, so the back matter was especially thrilling  because we could pull different things up on our phones while we were talking to be like 'did you know about X?' We pulled up some clips about Storme'. We also discussed how we had to look up the food mentioned, like wa mooi. We did laugh at how they talked about midcentury American food 'swimming in cream.'

Communism and kids living through the red scare vs what it's like to be a person of color in America today. Bunch of white people talking about it, but trying to think about what we need to do to make sure kids have freedom and safety. From an information professional's point of view, it means access and confronting misinformation when we see it."

Menu: "Our group loves food. We talked about what kinds of food we'd all enjoyed when we've visited places with bustling Chinatowns, and how we order (and try to branch out) when we order from our local Chinese places. Stories about Chinese groceries and trying to decipher things".

Central Region & Friends: "Emphatically YES, a great match It was a book that none of us had heard of. Some members were skeptical, but in the end, most loved this book. We loved Lily and her pull between two worlds. Some were shocked at the treatment of the LGBT community by the police and others, just for being who they are. Others knew more about that era and were not surprised."Our discussion was so colorful and had such depth that we don’t always get with some of our club picks. There was an initial discussion about the times. How after certain events, people have been persecuted in the United States, and how that trend, even decades later is continuing. We discussed the hardships of the LGBT community at the time, and the discussed how Lily would have had even more difficulty being gay at the time, due to her very traditional, Chinese family and upbringing. We discussed her bravery, coming out to her parents, and trying to be her true self when the easier choice could have been to fade into the shadows. Life was hard for all those in the gay community then, but Lily had to feel like she didn’t belong anywhere. We discussed how Lily’s aunt was a lifeline to her— although she didn’t quite understand Lily and her feelings, she accepted her the way she was and gave her a place to stay when her home wasn’t an option anymore. All in all, this book was a brilliant work of historical fiction, that the group devoured and loved. Thank you again for another brilliant selection."

Menu: We met virtually, but some decided to have champagne, as the girls drank at the Telegraph Club, and others made martinis. One even made sangria for herself, since that was mentioned on the night that Lily and Kath went to the party at the older girl's apartment.

North Wales Area Library: "We discussed the 1950s and what was happening in the US and the world. All attendees were adults and we discussed how this book was a tasteful/good choice for young adults. The group liked the way Lily gradually discovered herself and that no graphic material was needed. We discussed girls and friendship, high school, Chinatown, race relations, and the space program. In addition to the author's note, the group liked the timelines at the beginning of each chapter and the definitions throughout the book. The group felt the book would interest teens aged 14-up. This is a great book to highlight during PRIDE month but lovers of historical fiction are sure to embrace it too. The group like the author's note."

John Champe Project LIT: "Many of our members found Lily's experiences and internalized shame to be very authentic and relatable, even to a modern audience. Although we feared a sad ending for Lily, it was galvanizing to see her stand up for herself and begin to make her way in the world. This book did match our reading choices. Authentic, heartfelt explorations of identity and first love in a historical setting.

"We had an icebreaker that asked our members which decade of the 20th century they would choose to visit...and then soon realized that most of us would not be free to explore other decades with our current identities. We decided as a group not to time travel, hahaha. We also had a lively discussion about Lily's friend Shirley and whether or not we hated her or sympathized with her, especially given the time. And finally, we talked about how Lily experienced a lot of subtle racism even within the community she found at the Telegraph Club and how that impacted her.

Menu: We created 50's themed packs that had classic glass-bottled Cokes, a Playlist, and other snacks.

Friday Lunch and Dessert Club of Escondido, California and the Jane Austen Book Club of Lexington, Kentucky
THE SECRET KEEPER OF JAIPUR by Alka Joshi (MIRA/ HTP, 6/21)
Henna artist Lakshmi arranges for her protégé, Malik, to intern at the Jaipur Palace in the sequel to The Henna Artist.

Friday Lunch and Dessert Club: "Our members enjoyed reading the continued saga of the characters brought to life in THE HENNA ARTIST. Gold being such a part of Indian culture —and the limits placed on how much gold could be imported —was eye-opening. The fact that it has led to black market smuggling, especially that it has become a 'norm in the culture. The subject of the exquisite Royal Jewel Cinema collapse was terrifying, and of interest, as the owner of a dance school that performs in theaters.

"The undercutting of quality supplies and the loss of trust between family members and friends made us sad (and mad!) Additionally, watching Malik grow from a street urchin to an educated man who is then drawn to Nimmi, an uneducated nomadic tribal woman, and observing how she was accepted was enlightening and inspiring. The Healing Garden/natural remedies, which eventually created common ground between Lakshmi and Nimmi, was of interest. We all truly appreciated learning about the cultures, traditions, foods, and language. We also appreciated the character and terminology glossaries!"

Menu: "The colorful, flavor-filled Indian recipes featured in the book made us all hungry! We served Chicken Tikka Masala; Paneer Tikka Masala; Basmati Rice; Salad w/Shallot Vinaigrette; Vegetable Samosas; Garlic Naan; Hot Chai Spiced Tea; Kulfi Ice Cream; Macaroons."

Jane Austen Book Club: "As always, Alka Joshi did not disappoint! The Jane Austen Book Club dined for cocktails and discussion as we shared our favorite moments from Alka’s follow-up to her amazing novel, THE HENNA ARTIST!

"This time our members were transported to 1960s Jaipur with our favorites Lakshmi and Malik, along with Lakshmi’s new husband Dr. Jay Kumar. The only one missing is dear Radha (but there have been whispers we will not be separated from her for long)! We have mystery and intrigue as Malik finds himself at the center of a tragic event. Enter Lakshmi and her well-guarded secrets to help Malik solve the case!Discussion highlights included: Indian fashion, the importance of jewelry to women in Indian culture, women’s medical health, Indian cinema If you loved THE HENNA ARTIST you are going to love the sequel!"

Kings Chapel Book Club of Arrington, Tennessee and The Revivals Book Club of Germantown, Wisconsin

THE SHOW GIRL by Nicola Harrison (St Martin's Press, 8/21)
A novel about the glamorous world of the Ziegfeld Follies, through the eyes of a young midwestern woman who comes to New York City to find her destiny as a Follies star.

Kings Chapel Book Club:" Thank you for THE SHOW GIRL! It was a hit for our book club! A very good match for our book club, that likes historical fiction and —and everyone seemed to love this one. Several members who couldn't attend wanted everyone to know how much they loved it and especially the ending. It was a quick easy read that captures you from the first page. Everyone seemed interested in reading more historical fiction set during this period, the time of prohibition."
"We discussed the fact that Olive is very young and seemed to make some poor choices. She also didn't have a choice about some things that happened to her. Balancing your wants and desires with family expectations is very hard, especially during the 1920s, when women were expected to stay home and raise families. Olive experienced all the world had to offer and had some good times and some bad times, but she faced her fear and stood for what she wanted."
Menu: "The book cover was so gorgeous, a member made beautiful matching orange feather cookies!"

The Revivals Book Club "This book was very much enjoyed by our members. No one had read or was very familiar with the Ziegfeld Follies. Although I vividly remember I Love Lucy in “Lucy Gets Into Pictures” (S4;E18 of I LOVE LUCY 1955), Lucy the showgirl has trouble balancing a huge headdress while walking down a flight of steps on camera. We all agreed this coming-of-age and historical fiction novel is an enjoyable and enlightening read that we would recommend to others. Olive Shine is a young woman from Minneapolis, passionate about her career, her independence, and "who knows exactly who she wants to be." Harrison weaves a vivid depiction of the Ziegfeld Follies from behind the scenes, including a description of the perfect show girl, grueling rehearsals and the fatigue on the women's bodies, job insecurity, expensive costumes, and the fun and follies of youth living in New York City in per-depression times. When Olive least expects to fall in love, along comes Archie Carmichael, a wealthy successful businessman. Their shared love upends everything Olive has worked hard to overcome and achieve. Their union is met with reservations from Archie's parents, while Olive's parents believe their dreams for Olive to settle down will become a reality. The push-pull of societal expectations for a woman in the 1920s, often had us cringing. Olive is headstrong and resilient. Following Black Tuesday on October 29, 1929, everyone is forced to reevaluate their priorities in order to move forward into an unknown future.

Menu: "We met at deli, a nod to New York-style delis. We enjoyed grilled tuna and Reben sandwiches as well as tasty Italian desserts."

Lit Ladies Read Book Club of Melbourne, Florida, Brunch and Books of Bowling Green, Kentucky
SHOULDER SEASON by Christina Clancy (St.Martins, 7/21)
A portrait of an unlikely Playboy Bunny at a Wisconsin Playboy Resort.

Lit Ladies Read Book Club: "A great discussion! We have a broad range of backgrounds and we enjoy reading different genres. We have read historical fiction before, this book reinforced that we enjoy this genre We loved discussing this book, there was so much to talk about, including the differences between the treatment of women in the 1980s versus now. It was interesting to compare the men in Sherri’s life and the choices Sherri made. We could all relate to and understand Sherri’s desire to find where she belongs. Some members also really enjoyed the historical aspect of the Bunnies and the Resorts, which they researched and provided a little history lesson!"

Menu: "We met at The Melting Pot for Wisconsin Cheddar cheese fondue and martinis."

Brunch & Books: "It was a good match in the sense that it was out of our comfort zone.Lots of discussion about the era because several members were alive during that time. Talk of her friendships with the other bunnies at the resort and how important female friendships are!"

Over-Readers Anonymous Book Club of Acworth, Georgia, and  ZTA North Fulton Alumnae Book Club of Fulton, Georgia
HAVEN POINT by Virginia Hume (St.Martins, 6/21)
A sweeping debut novel about generations of a family that spends summers in a seaside enclave on Maine's rocky coastline

Over-Readers Anonymous: "A great match for our book club—we thought it was the perfect summer read.We shared memories of similar vacation traditions. The book also generated discussion around our own family histories. We enjoyed the historical aspect of the earlier portion of the timeline and the insular vacation community. The family secret revelations during the second part of the book kept us turning the paged. We discussed the timeline, points of view, vacation communities, food, and the themes explored in the book, along with the narrative structure, the timeline, grief, and friendship."


Menu: "We met at Zoёs Kitchen for soup and sandwiches, a popular food theme in the book. We also talked about our favorite New England cuisine.  

ZTA North Fulton Alumnae Book Club: "Because Hurricane Irma was threatening, we discussed past hurricane experiences. The book also generated discussion around our own family secrets and vacation traditions. We talked about how easily we connected with the characters and followed their stories. We felt the novel focused on friendship, family, and community, especially during challenging seasons. It is during those challenges that true character is revealed."

Menu: we met at Chiringa Restaurant in Alpharetta, GA. They serve elevated beach food. Unfortunately, they were out of their delicious lobster rolls!

 

 

The Page Ladies of Cleveland, Ohio and Salem Crossing Book Club of Murfreesboro, Tennessee
BLIND TIGER by Sandra Brown (Grand Central, 8/21)
The year 1920 comes in with a roar in this rousing and suspenseful novel by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown. Prohibition is the new law of the land, but murder, mayhem, lust, and greed are already institutions in the Moonshine Capital of Texas.

The Page Ladies of Cleveland, Ohio: "We highly enjoyed the story! We have read previous books by Sandra Brown, and this book was different in a positive way —and for members who knew nothing about prohibition, the book was an eye-opener."

"We discussed: whether our lives been disrupted on short notice and if the bootleggers who distilled and sold alcohol doing what they could to feed their families? Or were they taking advantage of a difficult situation? We thought the bootleggers were both. We also discussed whether big secrets 'erode' relationships or are some secrets are worth keeping? They're not all secrets are of a negative nature. The majority felt keeping a secret is preventing the other party from being hurt."|

Menu: "Mimosas with mix-ins; strawberry & blueberry simple syrups, orange juice, and a mixed berry beverage. Vegetables with ranch dressing, mini quiches, ham & Swiss cheese baked sliders, boiled shrimp, charcuterie board of cheeses, and meat.”

Salem Crossing Book Club of Murfreesboro, Tennessee: "We enjoyed our trip to the 1920s! Historical fiction is not something we associate with Sandra Brown, but you will not be disappointed! This book takes place in Texas during the 1920s when prohibition was just starting. Designed to reduce crime and corruption, health, and to improve hygiene in America, the Prohibition 'noble experiment', instead created the moonshine wars— and the craziness that comes with greed. There was much discussion about Laurel; we all enjoyed her character, but the entire book gave us much to discuss, including have been like to live then, what it would be like as a woman alone with kids, and what we would have done to try and provide for a family—would we be willing to make moonshine or would we try to find another way? We also talked about the law then, and how you could be guilty by one person's observation. The character development was wonderful! Add to that Brown’s romance, suspense, and her research and you have a powerful read!"


The Happy Bookers of Linn, Missouri and  Notre Dame CNY/NNY Book Club of Watertown, New York
ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE by Mike Gayle (Grand Central, 7/21)
Jamaican immigrant Hubert rediscovers the world he’d turned his back on.

The Happy Bookers: "It’s great to discover new authors and our latest greatest discovery is Mike Gayle, and his latest book and our first of his, ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE. Words won't do this book justice! It was a great match. We enjoyed the characters, what we learned about what Hubert faced, and about both countries he lived in. This book has a mix of lightness and depth. His trials and his family situation gave us much to discuss.
"Hubert Bird is a character to be remembered, and he will stay with you long after the book is over. A book to reread is a rarity, but this one goes on that list. Gayle tells Hubert's story in alternating chapters. Mike Gayle does it seamlessly. His journey with his family and friends had us gasping in surprise at several revelations we didn’t forsee. Hubert finds hope, love, and friendship that he richly deserves. A 5 star read for us!"

Menu: "We enjoyed tropical drinks and fruit while transporting ourselves to Jamaica— and discussed that book club should travel to Jamaica."

Notre Dame CNY/NNY Book Club: "Thank you for this opportunity! We recommend ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE!
"We discussed racism in the 1950s and 1960s England; the emotional struggle of losing children to drugs and sudden death; the feelings of isolation due to life changes (moving, job loss, marriage/child-rearing); and how we all exist on a spectrum between total extrovert and total introvert."
Menu: "If we had met in person: chocolate cakes, Guinness, pineapple juice, and tea!"

Reading Between the Wines of Albany, New York, The Next Chapter of Frisco, Texas,  Cork & Olive Book Club of Valrico Florida, Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
SEVEN DAYS IN JUNE by Tia Wiliams (Grand Central, 6/21)
A witty, romantic, novel about two writers and their second chance at love.

Reading Between the Wines: Our book club really enjoyed SEVEN DAYS IN JUNE! It is steamy and smart and has a lot of deeper issues and observations which made for a great discussion. We really liked Eva and Shane, and especially liked Audre, Eva’s precocious 12-year-old daughter.

"It led to so many great discussions. We talked about how genre authors don’t get the respect that literary fiction authors do, we discussed whitewashing in our culture in terms of media, and also our nation’s history. We also talked about “invisible” disabilities like the migraines Eva experiences, and how generational trauma can repeat over again and again, and what we can do and have done to break the cycle.

Menu: "Foods that were featured in the book snickerdoodles, gelato, and bacon-wrapped asparagus."

The Next Chapter of Frisco, Texas: "The title made us think of a good summer read. Everyone gave it high ratings, and one member said it was her favorite book so far this year We liked that the characters were relatable, interesting, and funny ell developed. We did not like the mother but in the end, we understood her. The storyline was unique. It was funny how the main characters’ novels were about the other—keeping their relationship alive. GalleyMatch offers a great way to hear about new authors we didn’t know about and broadens our horizons."

Book Club Girls Sparta: “We fell in love with the characters Eva and Shane in this wonderful modern-day romance about rekindling old flames. Young Eva and Shane with their substance abuse and family Issues found one another and felt something so primal and deep, that neither has forgotten. As the years apart Impact their careers and relationships we reminisced about our first loves, our younger selves, and our freedom to take a chance on love. Being more mature, and with more baggage, we were not so sure if they had met now, they would feel the attachments as when they were eighteen This was a very enjoyable, timely story that delved into the complex themes of race, substance abuse, motherhood, single parent struggles, societal barriers, and an insight into the world of publishing and the very different experiences for male and female authors. We highly recommend it, especially for those looking for a book with substance and romance, that also offers many discussion points. It would also make a great Netflix movie!

Menu: If we had met in person, Creole food, Jambalaya, Cosmos, martinis

Cork & Olive Book Club: “This book generated much discussion. Everyone loved Shane and Eva and especially Audre. We want to read the 'books' these two authors wrote! We discussed self-harm, racism, child abuse/neglect, addictions and co-dependency, inequality as women, as Black women raised in the book. We also talked about first love and how deep we felt as teenagers."

Menu: Inspired by the book: bacon-wrapped asparagus, parmesan tuilles, assorted cookies, sliders, crab cakes, beef tarts, gelato, sparkling wine.

The Carrollton (Texas) Book Buddies, Mom and I of Carmichaels Pennsylvania, and Wine PW Bloggers

SOBREMESA: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses (Scribe, 5/21)
In her coming-of-age adventure, Josephine travels to her family’s homeland of Argentina in search of belonging—to family, to country, to a love, and ultimately, to oneself.

Carrollton Book Buddies: "The ingredients of multiple generations and memorable food; seasoned by bonds of love, make SOBREMESA an inspiring culinary and reading experience."Family traditions sparked a lively discussion on childhood memories; especially events where parents and kids were participants. The Gentleman Caller led to lots of sharing involving ghosts, angels, and signs in different times of our lives. Our overall feeling was nostalgia-for holiday or vacation traditions spent with family and the memories those evoke.

"We were surprised at the energy and time invested in cooking for Josephine's family as children, then later at the estancia in Argentina. Dorita and Poupee were amazing in the kitchen! The recipes and memories shared in the book are proof. The transcontinental travel involved was also costly emotionally and financially. This memoir was a different genre for our group, but it's always good to expand reading boundaries."

Menu: We loved the food! For our sobremesa, recipes from the memoir, including Hearts of Palm Salad with Orange vinaigrette dressing, Empanadas, Grilled Chicken, and mushrooms- Desserts: Dulce de Leche Gelatin, also Alfajores, & Besitos from a local bakery, Argentinian Malbec wines, also guest take away gifts: muslin bags of chimichurri seasoning and the recipe for the marinade. The Dulce de Leche Gelatin flower molds were a feat!

My Mom and I: “Josephine is so close to her family, we knew she’d appreciate having a part in our own Sobremesa. Food is love in our family. Cooking and sharing food is as important to us as it is to Josephine.”
“This foodie memoir was a good match for us. We loved to talk about the food and recipes and especially enjoyed that recipes are included in every chapter. Most were recipes we’d enjoy and all were interesting. We got an enormous kick of Josephine considering Pittsburgh a home! We both live about an hour from Pittsburgh so the local references were a fun touch.
We talked about family—Josephine’s and ours—and how we can relate to Josephine trying to perfect her grandmother’s dulce de leche recipe with practically no help from her grandmother lol We can both relate to women in our family not being able (or willing!) to share the exact, treasured recipe but who important it is to recreate it. You kind of have to find a way to keep that recipe, sometimes recipes outlive the person themselves. It’s our way of bringing a piece of them back, keeping them at the table with us for important days and holidays."

Menu: “We made the mushroom sandwiches and loved them. We were delighted that we got to try Josephine’s homemade dulce de leche,a huge treat! We put it on top of vanilla bean ice cream and it was wonderful.

Wine PW Bloggers: Kobrand Wine and Spirits sponsored Argentinian wines to pair with the recipes with Bodega Norton wines.

Links to all posts with recipes here

“What as a treat to read. In fact, I've read it more than once already. It's an immigrant story. It's a love story. It's also about loss and grief as her mom dies unexpectedly. But life goes on, babies are born, and we continue to make connections with each other over shared meals.”

“While the focus of the memoir is on familial and romantic love, the tidbits I found most tantalizing were the indispensable tips on making authentic Argentinian food, which deepened my understanding of the cuisine. SOBREMESA succeeds by delivering an Argentinian memoir of food and love in 13 courses with heirloom family recipes.”
“As stories go, Josephine's is an intriguing tale of the spiritual world mixed into her daily life. Childhood in America, a stint in Argentina along with a romance that led her to make a family with the love of her life, lasting bonds with extended family in Argentina, return to America, and her business, all with the continued presence of her ancestral spirits and people dead and alive that influenced her life in so many ways. Read the book to find out more!”
“This robust memoir portion leads readers through Josephine’s personal journey including her childhood, coming of age, parenthood, and marriage. The author seamlessly incorporates a selection of recipes that mirror the storytelling's texture with a charming and humorous flair. For example, Milanesas (beef milanese) will serve seven people, “maybe, if you hide them well enough.” The author has a knack for showing emotion in endearing ways that make the reader feel like they are a part of the scenes as they unfold, particularly in her descriptions of the cast of “characters” which I loved learning about the concept of sobremesa, which is the shared experience of enjoying a meal and conversation with loved ones. Though this story is indelibly focused on the author’s own heritage — she was raised in Pittsburgh with an Argentine background and culture — the concept is can be translated to any group of people that care for one another."

Reading Between The Wines Book Club of Albany, New York
OC BooksandBrunch Book Club of Lake Forest, California
DARK ROADS by Chevy Stevens (St.Martins Press, 8/21)
Taut, chilling, and heartbreaking, Stevens's most breathtaking thriller yet.

Reading Between The Wines: "Stevens’ STILL MISSING was a book club favorite, so we jumped at the chance for an early read DARK ROADS, about a girl, Hailey, that vanishes from her small town. Everyone thinks she’s a victim of the highway killer who’s been at large for decades. A year later, Beth shows up in town, determined to find out what happened to her sister Amber, and Hailey.

"The book has an immersive sense of place and the descriptive writing made us feel like we were in the British Columbia woods! This thriller keeps you on your toes, and surprises you with a satisfying ending.

We were invested in Hailey's story. We had not guessed who the killer was but the reveal was well done and made sense. The author did a great job ratcheting up the suspense. We love thrillers and this was a great match. We all enjoyed the book and the author's writing style.

Menu: "Many scenes in the book take place in the local diner— especially breakfast— we served breakfast for dinner: mini quiche, bacon, hash browns, fresh berries, and a lemon chess pie. We also made a pitcher of Sea Breezes, a perfect brunch drink."

OC BooksandBrunch: "A great match, especially for the thriller lovers in our group"This book is divided into three sections. In Part One we discover the disappearances of various young girls who were last seen on Cold Creek Highway but no killer has been found. Part Two switches to another narrator, and in Part Three is everything comes together in a suspenseful and thrilling way.

"We agreed that the police officer was such a despicable character, which brought up an interesting discussion of how some people use their authority to manipulate others. On the other hand, Wolf was such an interesting addition to the story. We also admired the determination of the main character, Hailey, and how resilient and brave she was to have faked her death and to have survived by herself living in the middle of nowhere. We also enjoyed the friendship between Hailey and Jonny."I loved the suspense that was created in the first few chapters.I learned that this book is loosely based on the real stories of the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia which gave me chills! We had a fantastic meeting and the food, the company, and the conversations were amazing!"


The Sensational Seven Book Club and the Fabulous Six Book Clubs of Appleton, Wisconsin
Get Woke Book Club of New Prague Minnesota, Mountain Meadows Book Club of Renton, Washington, and Pittsburgh Chick LIt Book Club of Pennsylvania
SPIN: A Novel Based on a (Mostly) True Story by Peter Zheutlin (Pegasus, 6/21)
Ride away on a 'round-the-world adventure of a lifetime—with only a change of clothes and a pearl-handled revolver—in this transcendent novel inspired by the life of Annie Londonderry

The Sensational Seven Book Club: “What a story Peter Zheutlin told, what a fascinating woman. and such a beautifully written story! We had an animated conversation like no other, with many opinions about Annie’s choices and how her decisions shaped the person she became."
"We loved the beautiful cover of Annie on her ‘wheel’ and the simple, perfect title. seeing the cover and the title made us anxious to dive into SPIN! The book prompted such great discussion. At the young age of 23, she made the bold decision to take up the daunting challenge of biking around the world. How many of us would ever even think to attempt this feat? The author based the book on ‘a mostly true story,' but what a story he told through a letter from Annie to her granddaughter, Mary. What a creative take on Miss Londonderry’s tale! He authored the book in such a beautiful way that you could often visualize the sights and scenes as Annie navigated her way across the world on her bicycle.
"We agreed that although Annie is a champion and a woman truly ahead of her time, it was difficult to approve of her choice to leave her husband and three young children for 15 months. One of the reading guide questions prompted a long discussion about Annie’s character: She was charismatic, driven, courageous, and adventurous. Could we look beyond so many of the choices she made and deem her a ‘likable’ character? Peter Zheutlin’s great-grandaunt was a character not soon forgotten by any of us and one who provided our book club with an animated conversation like no other!

"Menu: "We focused on Annie’s ancestry with Jewish-themed snacks and drinks. We spent an evening around a bonfire drinking Manischewitz wine and noshing on snacks with Za’atar seasoning. Delicious!"

Fabulous Six Book Club: “Written from the viewpoint of Annie, in a letter to her granddaughter, was the perfect way to tell her story.  After all, SPIN is "A Novel Based on A Mostly True Story."

An engaging and quick read, SPIN is laced with bits of American history during the time Annie was biking around the world in the 1890s. She encountered several well-known people, such as Susan B Anthony and Annie Oakley.  So why have we heard nothing of Annie's feat before?  Peter Zheutlin skillfully took us on Annie's journey using a letter that she has written to her only Granddaughter, Mary, and was able to capture her feelings, her awareness, and why made some of her decisions.  Both Annie and the author tell us to decide for ourselves what to believe and what is imagined.  If not for the author's research and tenacity, the story of Annie Londonderry  (Annie Cohen Kopchovsky) likely would have been lost.  Our discussion revolved around Annie, women's issues, and the press. We decided that even during Annie's time, the press played an important role in promoting her and her journey. 

Annie was ahead of her time. Every idea of what a woman ‘should’ be during the 1800s— she was not. She seemed aware of the fact that what she was doing would be frowned upon. We had good discussions regarding women and motherhood.  Members were not fond of the choices that Annie made in her life, while others thought she felt trapped and had non-maternal instinct. Annie wasn’t suited for the traditional role of wife and mother and didn't deny it. At the first chance, she set out on her adventure around the world on a 42 -pound Columbia bike. To do this, she gradually changed her persona. Annie spun embellished tales on her trip.

Having never heard of Annie and her "Round-the-World" adventure, it was fun to do some additional research using d links provided via the author's Reading Guide and website. How is it that her family didn't know more of her story? The Author's Note explained that this family story had been lost. and gave insight into Annie's decisions.  I appreciate the commitment made by the author in researching Annie, and that we are encouraged to imagine which parts of her story are true. You'll find Annie quite fascinating!”

Get Woke Book Club: "Read SPIN! You will be happy you went on the ride! As the wheels on Annie’s bike turn, readers are entertained with tales of adventure, imprisonment, romance, and danger. Annie’s contribution to the women’s movement made our members fortunate to have gone on the ride with her.” Our first in-person meeting in over a year was held at Next Chapter Winery. In honor of Annie, we rode bikes to the winery, and faced many dangers on the way! SPIN is based on the life of Zheutlin’s great-grandaunt, Annie Londonderry, who at age 23 in 1894 pedals around the world on a man’s one-speed bike, earning room and board as she travels. In the first paragraph Annie, a.k.a. Annie Kopchovsky, reveals that she is not the ‘most reliable witness to the events of [her] own life,’ alerting readers that her penchant for ‘spinning’ was not confined to the bike. Let the ‘spinning begin’! We were amused and captivated by Annie’s stories. Did 500 people really attend Annie’s send-off in Boston? Did Annie log 10,000 miles on her one-speed, man’s bike? Did Annie perform in the Wild West show with Annie Oakley? These questions were spinning through our minds as we read."
"The important message behind Annie’s life and adventures: In an arranged marriage with an older man, the mother of three small children was the family’s breadwinner. Annie tells us that she was not the only woman of her era to be overwhelmed by her responsibilities, but she was able to ‘break free.' We felt we would not have left our children as Annie did, but understood the pressures and expectations placed on women of the era. Annie’s resourcefulness, spunk, and courage made her a ‘symbol for an entire generation of women and a symbol of the struggle for women’s equality.' The invention of the bicycle emancipated women, and drastically influenced a redesign of their clothing. Annie’s ability to 'ride' this new movement was more important than any actual miles spent on her bike."

"We played ‘Fact or Fiction,’ a game combining Annie’s stories with facts from Zheutlin’s biography of Annie, Around the Word on Two Wheels Each card featured an Annie story that prompted discussion about its veracity. The flip-side provided factual information. Annie’s tales had our heads spinning and judgments faltering. Events we labeled as fact were fiction, and vice versa.
Trust us, Annie’s stories are worth the read. 125 years after her momentous trip, she is reveling in the attention that her stories continue to generate. As one member said, ‘This was over 100 years ago, and women are still fighting some of the same battles.'"

Menu: "Annie suggested that Colonel Pope greet her whiskey. We identified as 'Kindred Spirits' with Annie with the winery’s whiskey.

Mountain Meadows Book Club of Renton, Washington "A good match for a book club of independent and adventurous women. SPIN: A novel based on a MOSTLY true story told us we'd be reading a biographical account of an interesting woman with a little bit of artistic license thrown in. A global sensation in the 1890s, the story of Annie Londonderry was mostly forgotten: In 1895 The New York World declared Annie’s round-the-world bicycle tour “the most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman.”  A hundred years later, the extraordinary journey of discovery Peter undertook to bring this story to life is just as fascinating.

Discussion highlights included our fascination with how the story of Annie came to the author's attention and what kind of providence? fate? luck? started the chain of events that ended with this interesting story. Sorting through Annie's truth to try to imagine what the actual situations would be like was interesting. A woman of her time being able to self-promote and control her own narrative was very impressive -even if it meant embellishing the truth. No man (then or now) would think embellishing the truth for promotional purposes is even the slightest bit scandalous. We were left wanting to know more about Annie. Tons of Googling and Wiki searches were our norm."
Very few books compel the reader to want to know more about the origins of the story.  After reading SPIN I not only craved more information about Annie Londonderry, but dare I say, I wanted to learn so much more about the circumstances that brought this book into being.  The story behind the story captured my imagination as much as Ms. Londonderry herself.

A series of events led Zheutlin to discover the details of his family’s history from a second cousin. Deep in her basement are boxes filled with forgotten family secrets and history. After extensive research and time piecing together the puzzle, he has created a novel, mostly based on fact, of this amazing woman, Annie Londonderry.

"We highly recommend the book, and suggest you check out the author's 2008 account of Annie Londonderry’s extraordinary ride Around the Word on Two Wheels.

Pittsburgh Chick LIt Book Club of Pennsylvania: "A winner! We thoroughly enjoyed SPIN. Annie motivated us to dust off our bikes and travel local bike paths this spring. We may just call ourselves the ‘Annie's Girls’ as we bike around our neighborhoods.

‘Annie didn't run away to join the circus. Annie became the circus.’ Author Peter Zheutlin 's comment summarizes our book discussion. Peter joined our discussion and provided insight on the research and writing. It's difficult to believe that a 23 year-old, married woman with three children, would leave her family for over a year to bicycle around the world—over 100 years ago. Annie Kopchovksy, who assumed the name Annie Londonderry for her adventure, learned to ride a bike, plotted biking routes, handled the logistics of traveling between stops, and financed her adventure primarily by giving lectures and working odd jobs while on her trip. Our complaints about commutes and business trip delays pale in comparison to Annie’s challenges as she biked around the world. While the author admitted it is difficult to separate fact from fiction in Annie's stories, the route she traveled is accurate and indicates a woman with a strong desire to succeed. A master of self-promotion, Annie notified journalists before arriving in a city and worked with them to get her story published in newspapers.

"It surprised us that Annie was a sensation not only in the countries and cities that she visited but also in places to which she never traveled. The world delighted in her sensational stories. While she may have embellished her accomplishments, it was clear she was not afraid to be herself and to be recognized for her success. We appreciate stories about women who overcame difficulties to achieve their dreams/goals."

Cork & Olive Book Club of Valrico, Florida, KC Book Club of Kansas City, Missouri, Fab Six Book Club of Appleton, Wisconsin, Books N Cooks of Elk Grove, California
THE GLORIOUS GUINNESS GIRLS by Emily Hourican (Grand Central, 5/21)
A novel imagining the story of the Guinness Girls, the daughters of the Guinness founder

Cork & Olive Book Club of Valrico, Florida: “The book had so much depth that it sparked plenty of discussion outside of the questions that were provided.

"A great match! It was easy to set a theme for our meeting and The book is very well-written and we enjoyed the storytelling. It was especially unique to read it from Fliss's point of view. Hourican did a great job of introducing the Guinness sisters to us but also Fliss, who we all loved Fliss!

"Our favorite question: which of the sisters each of us related to. It was fun to talk about each sister, what we had in common, and how several of us are a combination of all three girls. We wondered why Fliss was not included as an option—many of us related to her.

"We also discussed Ireland and the IRA. Not many of us are familiar with that period in history."

Menu: Irish treats: Shepherd's Pie, Guinness Chocolate Cake, Guinness Bread, Irish Tart, Guinness Cheese with Pretzels, Black Velvets (Guinness and Champagne), and Baby Guinness (Coffee liquor and Irish Creme)

KC Book Club of Kansas City, Missouri: "We were excited about a historical fiction book set in Ireland, as members have traveled there and love the country. This book was a lovely surprise.”It shows the divide between the working class and wealthy and very entitled high society of the interwar period, the aftermath of World War 1, and the excess and debauchery of the Roaring 20s that came down with a crash when The Great Depression hit at the end of 1929. The Guinness Girls were staggeringly wealthy, beautiful, but were they happy?
"With the story beginning in 1918, several members were surprised that the 1918 Flu Pandemic was not mentioned, and also that the book focused on Fliss, and the Guinness sisters and family were secondary characters. Members liked the Irish Revolt history, an aspect of British history that we don't know much about as Americans. The history that included something of the Irish Civil War was fascinating. The group agreed that the Guinness Girls lived in a very gilded cage and the Roaring 20s party scene was excessive and shallow. The expectations for the girls to marry well, contrasted with the fulfilling careers that Fliss and Mildred have compared with the 'good' marriages and no possibility of a career for the sisters and other members (male and female) in the aristocracy during that period.”

Menu: "We enjoyed Rumchata Banana Pudding cups for dessert. Not exactly Irish, but a 'pudding'!"

Fab Six Book Club: "Hourican interweaves the Roaring 20s, the civil unrest in Ireland, and the impact on the characters with the story of the Guinness sisters and family.”-The novel introduces each of the three sisters and heirs of the Guinness empire. While they lead a glamorous life, we are also introduced to the post-World War I aftermath and growing divide related to social issues. Hourican does a good job of giving us the history of that time. Felicity, "Fliss,” the narrator of the story, is enjoyable as she tells the story of the sisters as an outsider looking into their world, and was a favorite character, although the three sisters each take on a life of their own through Hourican's writing.

"We discussed the lives the Guinness Girls led; clothes, parties, and carefree attitude that their wealth afforded them. Telling the story from Fliss's point of view was effective: the reader has the perspective of seeing others as an outsider. There are many twists and turns in this story.”

Menu: "Cheese, crackers, and veggies, all served on St. Patrick's Day plates."

Books N Cooks: "Our club likes historical fiction and also stories that include foods and cultures from other lands. We discussed which characters we related to and how different and the same the two mother figures were. A couple of us related to Fliss and not the three Guinness Girls and we also compared mothers and depression and anxiety from different eras. A couple of the ladies in our club related to Aileen and one of our ladies compared herself to Maureen and we all agreed!"

Menu: Tea sandwiches, Guinness Bread, Beer Pretzels, Irish Deviled Eggs, Irish Bailey Chocolate Fudge, and an Irish Cheese platter.

Reading Is My Cardio Book Club of East Greenwich, Rhode Island
It's Lit!erature Book Club of Gilbert, Arizona
THE IDEA OF YOU by Robinne Lee (St. Martin's Press, 6/17)
The story of Solène Marchand, who begins an impassioned affair with a member of her daughter’s favorite boy band.

Reading Is My Cardio Book Club: "We are so grateful you chose us for this book! I can't believe we hadn't heard of it - it was a story everyone enjoyed which is rare in our group. It was perfect!

"The book was a great combination of smart and sexy and the story was one that we could all relate to as moms around Solène's age. Not that any of us are in anywhere near the same situation, but Solène's struggles as a woman of a certain age trying to balance everything and find happiness gave us a lot to talk about.

"There were so many interesting topics of discussion, including whether or not we would have made the same choices, from embarking on the affair to continuing it to the decision she makes at the end. And especially, how we relate to her trying to put herself first while also worrying about the repercussions it had on her child and her work."

Menu: "Our version of a VIP afterparty with August Moon Mimosas (Prosecco, triple sec, pineapple juice, and blueberries) and desserts."

It's Lit!erature Book Club: "It was such a treat to travel along with Solène and imagine being at the different locations, as we have not traveled. Although we would prefer not to have throngs of fans surrounding us, imagining secluded beach getaways in the south of France and taking romantic strolls through the streets of Paris or Tokyo sound like the perfect escape right about now. The steamy scenes definitely added to the escapist feel of the novel. We also felt it would make an interesting movie, and it was fun to find the book title within the text itself."

Menu: "We met virtually but shared our drinks and snacks as well as discussed what foods we associated with this book. We all agreed that serving Scotch would be a must!"

The Revivals Book Club of Germantown, Wisconsin
THE THERAPIST by B.A. Paris (St. Martin's Press, 7/21)
B. A. Paris returns with a  gripping novel of psychological suspense, a powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.

"We all recommend this psychological suspense thriller! We are not new to B. A. Paris, having selected BEHIND CLOSED DOORS for our June 2018 discussion. Everyone raced through THE THERAPIST eager to solve the mysterious murder along with Alice. We knew Paris would lead us down twisted roads of deception and confusion, but surely we could figure out whodunit. False clues kept you guessing, and the ending will surprise you. This is a book where a second reading will reveal all the ways we choose incorrectly! B. A. Paris chooses her words carefully, artfully, and cleverly, sending the reader down dead-end paths and rabbit holes along with Alice.

Our host began her telling of a too-close-for-comfort real-life murder in a neighboring home. From her patio, we stared, mouths open at the home where a husband killed his wife during a violent argument. We asked our friend, how it was to live so close and in plain view of the location of a murder. How ironic that we choose her home to discuss this book even before reading it!

THE THERAPIST is an addictive thriller that I could not put down. Filled with secrets, relationship dramas, issues of trust, and one psychopath, this book will not disappoint with this escape read, perfect for summer!"

Menu: "Crackers, muffuletta, hummus, and nuts, a nod to appetizers at the cocktail party Alice held to meet the neighbors".

Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey, North Wales Area Library Book Club, Pennsylvania, and Words with Friends of Boston, Massachusetts
MAN ENOUGH: Undefining My Masculinity by Justin Baldoni (HarperOne, 4/27/21)
Encouraging men to dig deep within themselves, actor and director Justin Baldoni helps us reimagine what it means to be man enough and, in the process, what it means to be human.

Book Club Girls of Sparta: “MAN ENOUGH is a wonderful, new take on being ok to just be yourself. We thought it would be a wonderful addition to high school and college curriculum, interwoven with themes of psychology, society's interpretations of what is gender appropriate, economic status and our social interactions”- We wouldn’t have chosen MAN ENOUGH, but we enjoyed reading it and the discussion that followed! We felt the book is suited to a younger audience—men and women but particularly college-age men. However, the book was a wonderful, new take on an old topic of being ok to just be yourself.

"Being 'enough' was a theme that was brought up in our discussion throughout the evening. The book centered around Justin's experiences growing up and now being a married man with his children, but we felt the message could apply to women and men equally. We found his last few chapters particularly endearing and connected you to his frame of mind and heart.

“The cover is outstanding, and we are now following Justin on social media and enjoying his pop-up visits to stores where he is delighting and surprising fans.

His writing and experience brought a fresh take to topics of self-understanding, empathy, finding inner peace, and striving to beat down the devil on all of our shoulders, who tells us we aren't enough. When we believe we are enough, we can begin to heal and help others by modeling this confident and brave, and peaceful forgiveness.”

Menu: “We thought spicy Thai food (Justin is extremely handsome) and a crisp beer (it's the drink that most people associate with a ‘man's drink, but we love it too) would pair with the book.”

North Wales Area Library Book Club: "Our group has discussed many books, and as the facilitator, I feel this was one of our best discussions. MAN ENOUGH took our readers out of their comfort zones Ten women and one man participated in the two-hour (and it could have lasted longer) discussion. We talked about the most meaningful chapters:  Chapter 5,' Privileged Enough: The Reality of My Racism and White Male Privilege" was #1 with us. We discussed that the men in our lives had fewer friendships than Baldoni mentions. The younger members of the group identified more with his quest to accept himself, the older members were through that stage of their lives.

"A great deal of time was spent discussing body images and racism in its many forms. The book provided insight that we can apply to other situations. Members found themselves discussing various parts of the book with important men in their lives. The book provided good talking points. While members said it wasn't a book they would have chosen from the shelves all were glad they read it! Several participants had the audio version and thought Baldoni did a great job narrating his book."

Words with Friends: "We invited our husbands to read MAN ENOUGH and participate in our discussion, an important conversation about masculinity which we somehow have never had.

"Members completed surveys before the meeting based on topics Justin raised in the book. We began by reviewing the results. Questions included how likely are you to stop and ask for directions, to talk with friends about feelings and fears, the actors you most admired as a child, if you thought your children had a broader definition of masculinity than you did, at what age Justin's message would be most valuable, and to describe a man cave! We sorted men's and women's responses. These lead to a fascinating discussion about our responses, including generational shifts in thinking about masculinity, body image, gender equality childhood experiences, unwritten messages about masculinity, and more.

MAN ENOUGH is an insightful exploration of how masculinity is experienced and learned, and we appreciated Justin's honest approach to topics that are often uncomfortable."

Menu: "For dessert, one of Justin Baldoni’s favorite treats, Justin's Peanutbutter Cups."

 

The Revivals of Germantown, Wisconsin and the Book Club Girls of Sparta, New Jersey
A SUMMER TO REMEMBER by Erika Montgomery (St. Martins’ Press, 5/21)
A romantic and timeless debut novel tinged with a love of old Hollywood.

Revivals: "A light read for our club that gravitates towards books with some insight based on truths or slanted toward historical fiction. We appreciate and are open books that take us away from our usual genre.

"Do the people or a house make a home? This theme runs throughout the book with each of the characters longing for or avoiding creating a home. While it was easy to dislike Mitch, was he the real villain in the book? Taking a closer look at Glory's choices and how she handled the path her life had taken, we asked ourselves if the villain was really so obvious? Montgomery has written a book that seems to be headed in one direction with an obvious climax, but then takes a hard turn in another unforeseen direction. The six main characters in the novel are not as they appear outwardly, hiding truths, creating deceptions, and keeping secrets. Long forgotten unopened letters are uncovered to take the reader on a journey to Cape Cod to deliver the letters to their intended, thirty years after they were written. As Midwestern readers at winter's end, we enjoyed a visit to the coast, even if it was only through the well-written pages of a good book.

Menu: "Stardust Margarita (highly recommend the author's recipe), hors d'oeuvres reminiscent of Glory and Mitch's first visit to Louise and Russ' home. Mushrooms Tartlets, New England Clam Chowder, Green salad with lemon vinaigrette, and fresh bakery bread. Champagne, and hand-crafted truffles."

Book Club Girls: "We all enjoyed this story!  Many of our members connected to the characters in the book a few even collect movie stubs too!

"We think it makes for a fantastic beach read that brings together the themes of family, friendship, home, hard choices, and how secrets we keep have true consequences for not just ourselves but for those around us. 

"We were drawn to the question of what does home mean to you? Is it a place or the people that you are with that define home?  Overwhelmingly each of us defined home as the people you are with— your family your friends.  We were the first book club to discuss Erika Montgomery's book with her via Zoom. She was easy to talk with and was genuine and gracious with answering our questions and joining our meeting."   

Menu: "With the movie themes throughout the book popcorn is a definite